Tight end Kyler Reed breaks free from a Penn State defender last Saturday.
By Randy York
One of the quietest, most introspective Husker seniors is Kyler Reed, who’s on a roll for making big plays as he prepares for Senior Day Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The fourth-year tight end from Shawnee, Kan., holds several people in high regard, but he’s never had a single role model to help guide his path.
“I look to whoever I need to gain insight and try to emulate how they go about their business,” Reed said Thursday. “I might take something from a freshman on the team or something from Tom Osborne. I look up to whoever does things right. However, I will say that my parents have helped me along the way, simply because they’ve supported me and my decisions through thick and thin.”
Reed enjoys “my brothers on the team” and has “a collection of great memories” (including a memorable performance at Oklahoma State two years ago). But the most poignant moment for him this season was the last-second comeback win at Michigan State, a game in which Reed caught a 38-yard pass on a fourth down-and-10 situation late in the game-winning drive.
“My grandpa passed the Thursday before the game, and he was on my mind before the game,” Reed said. “Finishing the game the way we did was great for me, and it’s hard to even try to describe how I felt.”
Saturday, Linda Reed and Kenny Reed will be there for their son’s final Tunnel Walk of his Husker career. “I think the culture has been restored to where it was, and the Nebraska tradition of hard work has been a big factor in our success,” Reed said, adding that the senior class and other team leaders have had four years to “buy into Bo’s messages” and now “we understand what needs to be done and we’re willing to go to work and be accountable to each other.”
It’s impossible not to sense the history of Nebraska’s program “and all of the great teams before us,” Reed said. “Our fans have to be in the top five percent of the most involved and crazy fans out there. We have no NFL team to compete with, so our fans live and die with the team. I’m honored to have been able to play with the ‘N’ on my helmet over these last four years.”
Reed says he’s learned from Osborne, the athletic director, from Bo Pelini, his head coach, and from Rex Burkhead, a team leader whose season storyline has been defined by injury.
“I have enjoyed playing for Bo because he has our best interest at heart,” Reed said. “He’s here to help prepare us for life first and to win games second. He truly cares about us.”
Reed remembers Osborne “coming to my high school to see how I felt about the coaching change,” he said. “He was the same person then as he is now. He is the definition of integrity. He is obviously a great football mind, but it goes way beyond that. Meeting him was great, and I know if i ever needed someone to talk to, he would be willing.”
According to Reed, Burkhead’s ability to work also sets him apart. “He came in as a freshman with a great work ethic and impressed everyone,” Reed recalled. “He’s a great person, and there’s so much more to Rex besides football. Team Jack is just one example. Rex lives an unselfish life, and I think we can all look to him as an example for our own lives.”
Visualizing playing a name opponent in the Rose Bowl “is a big deal because it’s been too long since Nebraska has made it back to excellence,” Reed said. “Good is not good enough for this team. We want to be great and getting that championship will mean a return to greatness because it will give us something we can build on in the future. Playing in the Rose Bowl would be a great experience, but we’re learning to put first things first. We have to sweep the regular season before moving on to Indy.”