Jake Reed Open Arms

[Note From Adam: Lindsey Young is a talented writer and true Minnesota Sports fan. Her articles around the internet have caught my eye on many occasions over the last couple of years, so I was thrilled when she reach out to Vikings Territory offering to write a guest article or two. Lindsey's first contribution far exceeded my expectations as she sat down with one of my favorite Vikings for a one-on-one conversation. My gratitude and praise might not be enough to convince her to stick around for good, so please be sure to let her know what a great job she did in the comments section.]

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Three Deep.

Use these words with Minnesota Vikings fans, and they will know exactly what you’re talking about.

In 1998, Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Randy Moss impressed the league as one of the most successful receiving trios to ever play the game.

But where are they now? On Nov. 7, Jake Reed sat down to share with fans about his time as a Viking, his insight on the current team, and his life post-football.

Born and raised in Georgia, Reed proved a natural in football cleats from a very young age. The receiver pursued his dream of playing in the NFL, and he left a mark wherever he went. As a senior at Grambling State University (Louisiana), Reed led all receivers with 954 yards and an impressive 20-yard-average per catch.

Reed entered the 1991 NFL Draft, and the Minnesota Vikings drafted the 22-year-old in the third round. Reed donned a purple jersey to join sophomore receiver Cris Carter, and the two made up Minnesota’s powerful receiving core in the early 90s.

“[Cris] taught me a lot of ropes about being an NFL wide receiver,” Reed stated. Although only one year stood between himself and No. 80, Carter became an immediate mentor. The two developed a strong friendship beyond football, and on the field, they were invincible.

Carter and Reed played almost a decade together, and each came up with countless catches for the highlight reel. And while many memorable moments occurred on the field, one play in particular stands out in Reed’s mind: Dec. 28, 1997. On that day, Minnesota faced New York in the season’s first playoff game.

Reed injured his leg early in the game, but he remained on the field. He smiled, recounting the fourth-quarter play:

“I remember that game like it was yesterday. I was hurting so bad, but I knew we needed it. [Randall Cunningham] threw it to me, and I made that catch in the back of the end zone.”

The Vikings tallied 10 points in the final 90 seconds of that contest, stunning a crowd of 77,497 Giants fans with a 23-22 victory.

Despite its best efforts, however, Minnesota went on to lose to San Francisco in the divisional playoffs.

Reed and the Vikings needed a fresh start for the ’98 season.

Enter Randy Moss.

At 22 years old, Moss was selected No. 21 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. According to Reed, Moss brought another element to the team – the young, fresh blood that the squad needed. Reed said the following about Moss joining the Vikings:

“He made the receiving game that much stronger, that much more dynamic—unstoppable […].  It was fun walking out onto the field every Sunday or Monday night knowing that, hey—people are shooting for you. The game plan is to stop you.

Carter and Reed each spent time with Moss, developing him into an even stronger receiver and individual on and off the field. Many NFL fans may see or remember Moss as the way he was portrayed through the media: unpredictable, defiant, rebellious. This, however, is not how Reed remembers his teammate.

“He spoke his mind,” Reed admitted. “He did what Randy Moss wanted to do. But as far as being crazy […], once you get to a certain level, you kind of have to put your guard up. Everybody is pulling at you, and everybody wants something. I think that as a young guy, [Randy] just didn’t know how to handle it.”

Together, the receiving trio led the Vikings through a winning 1998 season. That year, the Vikings, known for a high-powered offense, scored a then-NFL record 556 points, the most points scored by any team in the 1990s. They charged through a 15-1 season, and Minnesota fans will remember with painful clarity the ‘99 NFC Championship game in which the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons defeated the Vikings in overtime.

Three Deep - Moss, Carter and Reed

In recovery from back surgery, Reed did not play in the Championship game. Being on the sidelines made it no less painful, however, as he planned to be ready for the Super Bowl.

“We don’t want to talk about that,” Reed admitted, shaking his head. “I still look at my finger and see that I’m missing my Super Bowl ring. I think a lot of people cried that year – I think I shed some tears that day […]. When you get that shot to go to the next level, you have to be able to take it. It may not come around again.”

Reed is no stranger to losses and team obstacles, and he uses his experience to look at the Minnesota Vikings current season. Reed often takes to Twitter, boldly remaining positive and encouraging to his former team, despite its 2-7 record.  It’s that  attitude—the positivity, refusal to give up—that Reed says is most important to keep a squad going.

According to the retired receiver, it’s an attitude that starts before game day:

“When things go bad, sometimes it really snowballs,” Reed said. “The guys need to step back, make decisions – whether they want to play football, not hang their heads, not hang things up yet on the season. […] It may not be enjoyable to lose, but you have to enjoy the game. You have to continue to fight. You have to continue to fight as a team.”

When asked to comment on Minny’s current QB situation, Reed emphasized the importance of all the players on the field – stressing strongly that it’s hard to ever blame one position for a team’s struggles. During his time in purple, Reed played for several different quarterbacks: Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper, and a few others.

“We had a long list of quarterbacks, but it’s the receivers that make the QB really feel comfortable. We had a true leader – Cris Carter. He held us accountable as young receivers, and we really had to make sure that we ran our routes, got off the ball fast.” Reed reminded that all offensive players hold specific responsibilities, and receivers have to execute their routes just as accurately as the QB has to make the pass. In the end, there are a lot of things needing to be in place to complete a successful play.

Reed will continue to represent his team, no matter what its record, and he’s proud to be a part of Minnesota’s history.

Jake Reed Catch Over Packer

Besides supporting his former team, Reed maintains a happy and busy post-football life. The former receiver and his family currently live in Texas – according to Reed, there is no longer a need to “voluntarily live in the cold.” A proud father to three children, Reed spends most of his time involved in his children’s lives and helping them reach their own goals.

Reed’s son, JR, is a senior at Prestonwood Christian Academy, where he plays on the varsity football squad. Although the 6’1” JR occasionally plays receiver, his primary position is at cornerback. Reed enjoys serving as a volunteer coach at Prestonwood, saying he considers it a valuable time to be with his son—a “last opportunity for influence” before JR is recruited and begins to play college ball.

And it doesn’t stop with the males of the family. Reed’s daughter Jaevin, 15, already stands out as one of Texas’ top track stars. As a high school freshman, Jaevin finished No. 1 in the state for the Varsity 5A 200m and 400m events.

“[Jaevin’s] really all over the place,” laughed Reed, “and I run with her all summer.” He pauses. “I’m enjoying life. Enjoying my family.”

Recently, Reed brought his family back to MN to share in the latest chapter of Vikings history, an event close to Reed’s heart. On Nov. 7, Cris Carter returned to the Metrodome to receive his NFL Hall of Fame ring.

To Reed, this was another special event to share with his teammate.

“[Cris and I] are like family,” said Reed. “We hang out, our wives talk on the phone every day. His kids call me ‘Uncle,’ my kids call Cris ‘Uncle.’ I remember a time when I was a young guy and Cris said, ‘You just hang on to my coat tails, and you’ll be all right.’ I did that – I held on to his coat tails.”

He added, “It’s going to be emotional to see him up there. Seeing him up there – it’s going to feel almost like I’m getting the ring, too. It’s going to be a great time.”

Carter, Reed HOF

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Byline:

Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College and an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to write and contribute to various sources, in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report, TCHuddle.com, and Timberwolves.com. You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.