Monday, June 17, 2024

QB continues family's tradition

Redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Reaves scrambles with the ball during MSU's spring scrimmage at Spartan Stadium.

The family business. It's a phrase that suggests a particular family's specialty, cultivated through years of hard labor and dedication.

MSU redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Reaves is now beginning to make a name for himself in his family's business - football.

After highly publicized competition, Reaves has, for now, earned the Spartans' starting quarterback job.

Saturday night, Reaves will be on the biggest stage of his career. MSU (1-1) hosts rival Notre Dame (1-1) at 7 p.m. in a game that has drawn national media attention.

It will only be the second college start of Reaves' career.

But no matter how large and loud the crowd is Saturday, no matter how many times reporters ask if he's ready to lead the Spartans' offense, Reaves' family provides a past and present that gives him an advantage most quarterbacks never have.

As a kid, when his dad John Reaves was a college football coach, Stephen was immersed in the game. Sometimes, he traveled on his dad's recruiting trips.

"Stephen's always been around it," his older brother David Reaves said. "He's been around the game his whole life. He's been around the environment of a big-time game. He has seen what it's like."

When he came to MSU, John Reaves made sure to teach his son about the hard work and commitment it takes to be a successful quarterback.

"He's prepared me for what it's going to be like in college," Stephen said before this season started. "If it wasn't for him, I'd be shocked at what's going on."

The Reaves' family football lineage doesn't have the fame or fortune of the Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning quarterback triumvirate, but it is comparable.

His father and older brother both played as quarterbacks in college; his dad even went on to play in the NFL.

"My whole family revolves around football," Reaves said.

Reaves' dad coached college football at Florida, South Carolina and Cornell, and earned All-America honors as a quarterback at Florida before playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

His brother is an assistant coach at South Carolina. He was also a starting quarterback at Appalachian State University in the late 1990s.

Even Reaves' sister, Layla Kiffin, is married to the receivers coach at Southern Cal.

"I can turn in five different directions and find somebody that played the game or coaches and they all can help me out," Stephen said. "Really, I'm lucky to be in this family where I can turn to anybody for advice."

Though his mom and dad live in Florida and his brother coaches in South Carolina, Stephen is in constant contact with his family.

Stephen said he calls his dad every day to talk football, sometimes as many as three times in one day.

John Reaves traveled to East Lansing from his home in Florida last weekend to watch Stephen's first career start against Central Michigan.

After the game, Stephen admitted he was quite nervous beforehand. But his dad probably outdid him.

"I woke up Saturday, I was going to the bathroom every 20 minutes," John Reaves said. "My hands were sweating."

Being able to visit MSU and watch Stephen play is a luxury John Reaves now can enjoy since he gave up coaching after a stint at Cornell in 1998. He's now in real estate.

"I was hardly able to see my other son play football," he said. "I wanted to be there for Stephen's development, as well."

David Reaves had hoped to watch his little brother play in person, too, but this season, the Spartans' bye week coincides with South Carolina's. So, barring a bowl game, David Reaves won't get that chance this season.

He'll have to rely on the MSU game tapes he has made every week.

"First thing I'll do when we get out of here on Saturday is go home and watch Stephen play a little bit," he said.

With Saturday night's game looming, Stephen said his nerves are much calmer with his first start behind him.

"I feel ready, I feel excited, this is probably the most excited I've been leading up to a game," he said. "I think we're going to pull it off."

While Stephen is on the field, and with his every snap broadcast on national television, his dad will be inside Spartan Stadium, watching his son carry on the family tradition.

"I had no idea I was going to be in this position a couple years ago," Stephen said. "I knew I wanted to play football my whole life. That was a huge part of my life and it just went from there.

"I got an opportunity to play and I'm grateful for that."

Staff writers RoNeisha Mullen and J. Ryan Mulcrone contributed to this report.


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