There may have been no one more relieved to have a college football season this fall than redshirt sophomore wide receiver Jayden Reed.
Reed, a transfer from Western Michigan, had to sit out the entirety of the 2019 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Had the season been postponed until the spring, it would have been over two years since Reed last saw game action. The last time he saw the football field on game day came was while he was still with the Broncos all the way back on Nov. 20, 2018, in a win over Northern Illinois.
It was after his lone season as a freshman at WMU when Reed knew he could perform against higher competition. After a first-year campaign that saw him haul in 56 receptions for 797 yards and eight touchdowns, he decided to make the switch to East Lansing and play in the Big Ten.
"I'm a very competitive person and it was a lot with me," Reed said of his decision to transfer. "I wanted to get a great education first and foremost. Second off, I wanted to compete with the best, so that was a huge reason why I came. I feel like it was in my best interest to come here and play at Michigan State."
Sitting out a whole season was tough for Reed, but he embraced the situation and used the time to grow both on and off the field. He worked with the scout team in 2019 and credited going up against guys like Josiah Scott, now with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars, in helping him become a more complete receiver.
"I'm glad because it shaped my character in a way," Reed said of sitting out last season. "It helped me become a better person, helped me to become more patient. It really gave me a year to get faster, stronger, focus on myself. I don't regret it at all. I'm very happy with where I'm at right now, today."
Reed also had prior connections to Michigan State, the main one being his high school quarterback Payton Thorne.
Thorne, now a redshirt freshman at MSU, and Reed were teammates before college at Naperville Central High School, but Reed said he's known Thorne since middle school. The two have a budding chemistry and having the opportunity to catch passes from Thorne again was a big factor in Reed coming to Michigan State.
Wide Receiver Cade McDonald also played at Naperville Central with Thorne, Reed and MSU basketball forward Malik Hall, who is one of Reed's best friends. The familiarity made the transition from Kalamazoo to East Lansing a much simpler one for Reed.
"That gave me a reason because I was comfortable here," Reed said. "I just felt at home here, so that's really what drove me the most. I had visits to other schools, (but) I mean when you feel it, there's no other reason. When you know it's real, I was just all in at that point."
Reed was able to get a lot of work in with Thorne during the early stages of quarantine. Thorne built a makeshift weight room in his garage, and the two threw together while also studying the new playbook.
"Payton's home was pretty much my second home, honestly," Reed said.
The starting quarterback for MSU's first game against Rutgers on Oct. 24 is still TBD, and along with how comfortable Reed already is with Thorne, he has also started to develop a close relationship with quarterback Rocky Lombardi. According to Reed, the quarterback competition is neck and neck.
"I couldn't even tell you who will be the quarterback at the moment right now," Reed said. "I honestly couldn't."
Reed has been getting work in on special teams returning kicks and punts in practice and could be one of the Spartan's go-to guys in the return game. But how does Reed fit into new Offensive Coordinator Jay Johnson's system? He described the new offense as diverse, with an emphasis on stretching the field vertically for receivers.
"We already got good (running) backs, so we can spread them out," Reed said. "We have some big, strong receivers who can take the top off a little bit. I think vertically, that'll be a huge change from (last year to this year), (having) vertical threats."
Reed is a guy who could thrive in this offense and become a household name for Spartan fans this fall, just ask running back Elijah Collins.
"He's a phenomenal athlete," Collins said. "He can make plays when he has the ball, when he doesn't have the ball. ... He's one to look out for."
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