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Yellow Jacket Strong
By Lura Readle Scarpitti
Austin Reed’s last year as quarterback at St. Augustine High was one for the record books. When all was said and done, he had racked up 2,925 yards in the air and scored 34 passing touchdowns while leading the Yellow Jackets football team to a undefeated regular season — a goal which, according to his father Tom, he had set for himself at the beginning of the year. His performance was the most prolific in the 99-year history of the school, and it earned the Jackets a trip to the 2017 6A State Football Championships semi-final game. Sadly, they fell to powerhouse Seffent Armwood High School, but the loss didn’t take away from the incredible legacy Reed built during the 2016-2017 season.
He did all this while taking honors courses and maintaining a 4.4 GPA, graduating Magna Cum Laude in the top 10% of his class. Pretty impressive achievement, I think you would agree.
Anyone from the outside looking in might think that Reed’s football success comes naturally to him. The fit, 6-foot- 2-inch, 215-pound incoming Southern Illinois University freshman looks every bit the part of the star quarterback…but don’t let that fool you. From the time he was little, Reed has taken football very seriously. Every bit of his success comes from intense hard work, perseverance, determination and drive.
According to mom Jennifer, he “puts 110% into everything he does. He’s always been extremely competitive. It doesn’t matter if it’s the biggest game on the line or a family game of dodge ball in the back yard, he’s always wanted to win and be the very best he can be.” This means that Reed has spent countless hours devoting himself to the game, learning everything he could, working out, and honing his skills. “Once he settled into the QB position,” Jen says, “he worked outside of school-held practices and games to perfect his craft. Watching him put forth the extra effort to work hard and get better has always been inspiring.” Looking back, she remembers, “When he was in second grade, he begged us to let him start playing tackle football for the St. Augustine Saints. He had played flag football since he could walk, but I was hesitant to let him play tackle ball. After a little convincing from him (and his dad), I agreed. Ever since that day, football in the Reed family has been our life.”
Reed doesn’t remember a time when football wasn’t a part of his family’s life. “My mom loved football, my dad loved football,” he says. “It was like, growing up I always had football in my family.”
“You look for your kid to grow in the sport and see if all the long hours and hard work are something they really like and want to do,” Reed’s father, Tom Reed, says. “With Austin, they were.” So the Reeds made the commitment to help their son follow his dream, wherever it took him.
According to Reed, “Being a Yellow Jacket is something that every kid growing up in St. Augustine dreams of. Going to games on Friday nights as a kid, we all looked up to the players and always wanted to be in their shoes.”
But becoming one of the most successful quarterbacks St. Augustine High has ever seen didn’t happen overnight. Reed played both offense and defense in Pop Warner and came into Sebastian Middle School favoring the hard-hitting, aggressive style of defense over playing QB, earning a starting position as linebacker as well as Captain of the defense, also while being the second team QB. He went on to take over as the Eagles starting QB in eighth grade; breaking every team passing record while leading them to one loss season (shades of greatness to come) while still being the captain of both the offense and the defense.
That’s when he made the decision that shaped his future. As Reed puts it, “I always had such a strong arm. Throwing a football was always easy for me. So, when it came to high school, it was easy for me to focus on that and just play quarterback.”
The competition for starting Junior Varsity quarterback was tough, but Reed won out in 2014, proving he could once again marshal success as the JV Jackets went 8-0 with him under center, and in his sophomore year he was bumped up to the varsity team. His varsity start wouldn’t come until his senior year however, but boy did he make the most of it. His recordbreaking season started with three consecutive games where he passed for over 300 yards — one for 373 yards and three TDs against Bartram Trail (in a year Bartram believed they had the team to break a 19-losing streak to St. Augustine).
What was Reed’s secret to his senior start success? One thing that people noted was his poise and composure under pressure: something for which he credits his younger sister, Brook, also a star basketball and lacrosse athlete. He acknowledges that watching “keep her cool” when things don’t go her way as his inspiration to let things roll off his back during tough times on the field.
When the season was over, Reed was able to look back at his experience with pride. “To be on a team like we had last year was a brotherhood, and with the whole town behind us and rooting for us, it’s a feeling you never get at any other level of football. Friday nights at Brumley Stadium is as good as it gets and nothing feels better than playing in front of your hometown. I will always have that for the rest of my life!”
Reed’s storied season earned him a full scholarship to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois, but as a freshman, he’s back to riding the bench; something his mother says he’s been prepared for. “The patience that he learned during the years he was varsity backup at St. Augustine High is helping him now. He knows you have to pay your dues, and eventually, with hard work, it’ll pay off and you’ll get your chance.”
What’s more important to Jennifer is that not only has Reed grown up to be a leader on the field; he also leads by example off of it. As she puts it, “He’s a loyal and compassionate young man that enjoys doing things for others who may not have had the opportunities he had or grown up as fortunate as he did.” Not one to rest on his laurels, Jen adds that “He loves to volunteer for various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and various opportunities with our church. His passion is coaching young kids via the Police Athletic League and summer camps.”
Whether or not Austin Reed makes it to the pro-level, the 18-year-old youth has etched his name among some of the finest young men who have called St. Augustine home. No matter where his path takes him, it is certain that it will lead him to success.
With Austin’s competitiveness, laser-like focus, insane work ethic and stalwart belief in his abilities, nothing is beyond his reach. Jaguars…are you taking notice?