VIKING WIDE RECEIVER Jake Reed has a degree in criminal justice,
but he omits half of that term when he speaks of his
postfootball aspirations. He wants to be part of a different
sort of justice system--doing kids justice so they don't become
"I don't want to be a policeman. I don't want to work in a
correctional institute, with guys already in their 20's," he
says. "I want to get to kids before they get that far."
Last month he and his wife, Vinita, his college sweetheart from
Grambling State, opened a day-care center near their home in
Rowlett, Texas, outside Dallas. And Reed, who with Cris Carter
set an NFL record for catches by a receiving tandem last season
(Carter had 122, Reed 85), is combining with Carter on deeper
routes: into the elementary schools of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Every Tuesday, Carter and Reed visit classes, advising--no,
demanding--that each child develop a big dream and several
Reed knows all too well that in the real world of public
schools, the message from teachers, coaches and counselors can
be the wrong one. "In high school [in Covington, Ga., near
Atlanta] I never got into trouble. I did my schoolwork and was
about a C student--though I admit I could have done better," he
says. As a high school All-America receiver, "I went to see my
counselor about going to college. She said, 'I don't think you
should think about college. You'd probably be better off going
into the service.'"
Though his high school football coach, Harold Johnson,
encouraged him to attend college and helped him get into
Grambling, Reed says his basketball coach predicted that he
would be home after a semester, that he wouldn't amount to
"What makes me happy is knowing all the obstacles I've overcome,
the people telling me I couldn't do it, at a time when I was so
vulnerable," says Reed. "Kids listen to their coaches and
counselors. We have so many people throwing kids off, taking the
easy way out instead of saying to them, 'You can make it.'"
During an injury-plagued first three seasons with the Vikings,
in which he caught only 11 passes, Reed learned from Carter how
far a little encouragement can go. "Cris was the guy who
ultimately built me up in my career," he says. "There were a
couple of times when I was still questioning myself."
At 6'3", 217 pounds, Reed offers quarterback Warren Moon a
powerful alternative to Carter, and he's so valuable to the
Vikings that they signed him to a three-year, $5.4 million
contract in the off-season. Reed is not afraid to go across the
middle. Heading into Monday's game against the Bears, he had 32
receptions this year; 10 had come on third down and resulted in
Yet Carter and Moon say they still see residual scars of
self-doubt in Reed.
"When I came here in 1994," says Moon, "I saw this big, strong,
tall, fast, fluid man who had been injured a lot, so nobody
really knew how good he could be." But Moon also sensed Reed
"didn't have the confidence that he could be a prime-time, go-to
receiver on a consistent basis. That's what I had to get across
Says Carter, "Jake Reed, 10 years later, still remembers what
his [basketball] coach said to him. And what his counselor said
to him. A lot of coaches, teachers, people in key roles, don't
understand how key their roles are."
Reed does understand, and he's determined to see that kids get
the shot they deserve.
COLOR PHOTO: LAYNE KENNEDYThe Viking wideout draws from his own experiences when encouraging today's youth. [Jake Reed]