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Panthers standout isn't very hard to find on field

Phil Reed played nearly every down last season for Lecanto.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 6, 2002

LECANTO -- Looking for Phil Reed?

The football field is a good place to start.

The Lecanto senior plays quarterback. And running back. And linebacker. And safety.

Oh, and you can find him on special teams, too.

Reed is what Panthers coach Dick Slack calls a "48-minute guy" because he rarely -- if ever -- leaves the game.

"I'd play the whole game any day," Reed said. "Everyone gets tired, but you've got to work through it. You've got to love it. I don't like to ever come out. I feel like I'll miss something if I do."

The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Reed is the heart and soul of the Lecanto squad.

"He gets it done," Slack said. "He's going to go down in my mind as one of the great kids I've ever coached. He's a true believer. Very few kids fall in that category. He's committed, he understands the game, he believes and he works as hard as a kid could work. He's a tremendous leader."

And not a bad player either.

During the summer, Reed received recruiting attention from several Division I-AA programs and a few at the I-A level. Some coaches have said they plan to attend Lecanto games this fall.

"There's some pressure, but I'm trying to not let it get to me," Reed said. "There's a lot going through my head, but I'm going to work through it and not let anything get me away from my goals."

Reed started for the junior varsity as a freshman, but was moved up to varsity toward the end of the season. In 2000, he became the starting quarterback as Lecanto struggled to an 0-10 record.

But while Reed had his ups and downs, he never complained and grew as the season progressed.

"He learned a lot that year," Slack said. "He made a ton of mistakes, but I always told him, 'Forget, forget, forget.' And he did. He has a very short memory."

Last fall, Reed rushed for 359 yards and five touchdowns, passed for 398 yards and two scores, and was a major contributor on defense. His statistics are not eye-popping, but consider these facts: He played nearly every down and Lecanto, which opened in 1984, posted its first winning season.

"He's hard-nosed," said Citrus defensive end Steve Strong. "He'll come out and hit you."

"One thing that really stands out," Citrus coach Larry Bishop said, "is his physical growth. It's apparent he's got a great work ethic because his body has really transformed. Any kid with that type of work ethic is the type of kid you like to have."

Reed has a solid arm, but in Lecanto's offense is not asked to pass much. However, he is a major part of the running game, which produced big results in 2001. One of Lecanto's most effective plays is when Reed keeps the ball and takes off from the shotgun formation, which allows him to utilize his speed and strength.

On defense, Reed is a hard hitter who splits time between linebacker and safety.

"We're afraid of letting him play too much defense because he hits so hard," Slack joked. "We're afraid of him knocking out his shoulder."

Reed is a self-described gym rat and often stays late after school to run stadium steps. This summer, he worked two jobs -- one on a shrimp boat and the other mowing lawns -- then lifted weights in the afternoon.

"He works 365 days a year," Slack said.

There is a purpose behind Reed's work. His primary goal is to earn a college scholarship. With a breakout season, he knows the chances of that are pretty good.

"I want to play football (in college)," he said.

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