Hard work deems Reese team captain


Senior linebacker Kyle Reese was elected a team captain and is now starting under new coaching staff. Photo by Jessica Yanesh.

AJ Atkinson

Linebacker Kyle Reese came to Kent State five years ago and decided he would try to make it onto the football team. Now in his senior season, Reese is playing on a scholarship, starting at linebacker and one of six team captains.

“It was a long journey, all the way up from my freshmen year getting here as a walk-on,” Reese said. “A lot of hard work behind the scenes that you don’t see on the field. Now to be elected as captain is a huge honor for myself and for my family. It was one of my biggest dreams ever to play Division I football, and to actually lead this team as a senior captain is just a cherry on top. I never saw this coming.”

Reese said he watched the games from the sidelines his freshman year and accepted his role of being a sideline supporter — a first in his playing career — but knew he wanted to be more than just a supporter of the team.

“It really hit me that I want to get out on the field and needed to get out on the field,” Reese said. “I paid my dues to this team and trained as hard as I could the summer of my sophomore year and got my chance (on special teams) and made the most of it.”

Reese played special teams for two seasons, appearing in a total of 22 games and recorded 10 tackles. In practices, Reese continued to work as hard as he could. When Kent State coach Darrell Hazell arrived this spring and saw Reese’s work ethic he knew he had a special player.

Hazell, who Kent State players describe as a perfectionist, said Reese is the same way when it comes to paying attention to details, and that it is one of the reasons Hazell is so fond of his captain linebacker.

“He gets off blocks and to the ball extremely well,” Hazell said of Reese. “Anytime you can play as hard as you can, you give yourself a chance to make a lot of plays.”

Reese is playing linebacker and leading the unit this season with success — especially for a guy who has never played defense in his life prior to arriving at Kent State

The six-foot, 219-pound linebacker said his role is to help the team in whatever facet that may be. This is not the first time Reese has done what was best for the team. At Olmsted Falls High School, Reese, who weighed 195 pounds at the time, played center for the team.

“He’s earned himself a scholarship here, and he’s very grateful and helpful because of that,” Hazell said. “Some guys may feel entitled to those things, but he feels he has to work hard for everything. When he gets it, he’s not going to forget how he got it, so he appreciates it.”

According to Hazell each senior gets an opportunity to make a senior speech prior to the season and say who their hero is and what it means to be a Kent State football player. Hazell could give details about what Reese said or did but when it came to the linebacker, Hazell said he talked about how special it was to be a Kent State football player.

“I always try to do my best both on and off the field,” Reese said. “I really hope my teammates pay attention to that and also do things right both on and off the field. I want to be a great leader. I want to be able to lead this team to a MAC Championship and then a bowl game after that.”

Reese said after graduating from Kent State, he hopes to be a Navy Seal.

Because of Reese’s performance, character and attitude both on and off the field, Hazell said he is sure Reese will make it as a Navy Seal.

“He’s always where he’s supposed to be,” Hazell said. “Always gets there on time, sits in front of the class, studies when he’s supposed to be studying. He’s a model guy, and there’s a reason why he’ll end up being a Navy Seal, cause he lives the life Navy Seals do: Disciplined.”

Reese and the rest of his teammates will be back in action Saturday against Kansas State. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in Kansas at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Contact AJ Atkinson at [email protected].