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Jayden Reed focuses inward despite accolades and off season awards piling

July 28, 2022
<p>Graduate wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) scores a touchdown in Michigan State Football’s return to Spartan Stadium with the spring game on Saturday, April 16, 2022.</p>

Graduate wide receiver Jayden Reed (1) scores a touchdown in Michigan State Football’s return to Spartan Stadium with the spring game on Saturday, April 16, 2022.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

With the game on the line and the offense stagnating, Michigan State senior wide receiver Jayden Reed sat in the backfield alongside his teammate Jalen Nailor on punt return duty versus Nebraska. His confidence at that moment was high. The two back formations with Nailor and Reed had been something Reed had been pleading with the coaching staff to run for sometime. He felt, at that moment, it was going to work.

As soon as the ball came off of Nebraska's Daniel Cerni’s foot, he knew it was a wrap.

“Yeah, that’s a house call,” Reed said.

It was moments like that that convinced Reed to make his return to East Lansing. Despite being a First Team All-American and garnering many honors a year ago, he came back looking to create more moments like those and have an extra special final season.

That includes his play on special teams, something that Reed has spent time this offseason getting better at.

“That’s all natural vision and instincts and stuff like that,” Reed said. “I always work on catching points and stuff, watching the ball come down because you can‘t return it if you don’t catch it. I like to focus a lot on that. I may go back and watch film and even look at returns that I didn’t return and be like, ‘Oh, word, if I would have went that way or went around and went a little faster, I can return that one as well.’”

Plays like those are what garnered him many preseason honors as well, including the Blietnikoff and Maxwell Award watch lists along with making lists of preseason contents best punt and kick returner. Nationally, Reed is getting the attention of many after being just known regionally the year prior. For him, he’s trying to just focus on himself.

“Regardless of accolades and anything like that, I try not to buy into that too much,” Reed said. “At the end of the day, it’s about what you produce on the field, it’s about the facts. I try not to buy into that too much, you can’t get dragged into the hype too much. I like to stay neutral and keep my head down and prove myself on the grass.”

While much of the national attention is towards his returning skills, his receiving skills are ones that are garnering Big Ten attention too. It’s something the Spartans will need after losing their go-to guy running back Kenneth Walker III to the NFL. As a senior, he will be counted on in key moments to make plays just as he did last year versus Pittsburgh and others.

“My mindset is, ‘I gotta have it,’” Reed said. That's just what I think. It's either ours or nobody's really, so I just keep that mindset that I gotta come out on top.”

However, on the field is not where he feels he has made the best strides this offseason. It’s in his confidence and with his own inner peace. 

As a freshman, his trainer at Western Michigan asked him what his goals were. At the time, it included weighing in at 178 pounds and making the Freshman All-American team. Despite some skepticism at first, he realized by the end he achieved nearly all of his goals by the time the season came to a close. Since then, he has kept doing that same very thing and has continued to achieve those goals. 

But he also has a new responsibility as a leader. As the senior in a talented, but mostly inexperienced room outside, he’s being held accountable by the coaching staff and others to lead the room. That has included taking them out to movies, watching games and the typical college kid stuff, but it has also included what Reed calls the four H’s. The four H’s are where they get together and share their hero, their history, their heartache and their hope for the future.

“That’s not easy to talk about,” Reed said. “We had gotten a group together and I had talked about it, it wasn’t easy for me, I shed a tear doing it. What’s your hope for the future? What is your plan? What is your purpose of all of this? We basically shared those four H’s and that really brings the team closer when you learn about somebody on a more personal level that makes you care and want to fight a lot more.”

As that senior, Reed has had the chance to begin to reflect on what was what he feels was a good decision to come to East Lansing, even if he may get booed by his former fans in Kalamazoo on Sept. 2. However, he said he is grateful for Dantonio in believing in him and thankful for Tucker for propelling him to where he is now.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Reed said. “I'm grateful for every moment I went through at Michigan State. Coach Dantonio for bringing me in, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be there and I wouldn't be in this position today. So I really appreciate him for giving me an opportunity to play at a level like this. And I appreciate Coach Tucker for believing in me as well, giving me an opportunity to present myself today. No doubt it’s been a blessing.”

With the season approaching, Reed is coming around to getting his goals on a piece of paper. With one more season in college, he has one set goal for this season.

History.

“I want to make history and I want to do something that’s never been done here before at Michigan State,” Reed said.

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