Good news for the opponents on Salesianum’s 2014 football schedule: Troy Reeder is the Big Ten’s problem now.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior ran over everything in his path for four years, which probably felt like 15 years to opposing coaches.
“Troy is a unique kind of player,” St. Mark’s coach John Wilson said. “He really works hard at being a good football player. I’m excited to see how he does at the next level, because obviously he’s got the body for Division I college football.”
Reeder will take that body to Penn State next fall, where he hopes to be the next reason they call the school Linebacker U. He left a lasting mark in Delaware, leading the Sals to this year’s DIAA Division I state championship and being named the state’s Defensive Player of the Year in voting by media and the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association board of directors.
“I think this year has really been the pinnacle for him,” Sallies coach Bill DiNardo said. “He felt very comfortable, and you could see it in his play. … He was very confident, and he became a downhill football player. He did things on a consistently great basis.”
It seemed like Reeder had been at Salesianum forever, yet time was running out. The Sals had won six state titles, but the last one came in 2009.
“Each year, it got a little more intense for me, just how bad my classmates and I wanted it,” Reeder said. “It finally got to the third year ending, and we said, ‘Man, we have one more shot.’ That was pretty much the motto all year. This was our last chance.”
But how could the Sals beat Middletown? The Cavaliers forced a running clock during a 35-0 pasting of Sallies during the regular season last year, then backed it up with a 27-0 blanking for their second consecutive state title.
“Each year is a new team. This year, we knew we had something special,” Reeder said. “… This year, we had more determination and confidence. Last year kind of fueled our fire.”
On Nov. 8, the final week of the regular season, Reeder rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns as Sallies beat Middletown 24-13, snapping the Cavaliers’ 23-game winning streak. When the teams met again three weeks later in the Division I championship game, the Sals had the psychological edge.
“The first game, we didn’t even play as well as we could have,” Reeder said. “So that was the probably the most confidence-boosting thing that we had, knowing there was still more we could do.”
A record crowd of 9,156 came to Delaware Stadium to watch the Sals do more. Reeder held up his offensive end with 25 carries for 130 yards and two more touchdowns. And he anchored a defense that held the Cavaliers to 68 yards rushing and stopped the dynamic duo of quarterback Darius Wade and receiver Chris Godwin five times in the red zone. Salesianum won 23-7.
“He’s the rallying point,” DiNardo said of Reeder. “He’s their leader out there, both physically and verbally. He’s a very cerebral young man, very smart. He’s our quarterback on defense.”
A four-year starter, Reeder played outside linebacker for three years before moving to the middle for his senior season.
“The most fun thing I got to do this year was just blitz right up the gut and get in the quarterback’s face,” he said. “It was quicker than having to come off the edge. And it made it a lot easier to pursue to both sides, so I was much more involved in our defense.”
DiNardo said the many college coaches who came to recruit Reeder were surprised by his agility, adding that, “He’s a 230-pound young man that can move like he weighs 170.” Wilson, who schemed against Reeder on both sides of the ball for four years at St. Mark’s, could see Reeder exhorting teammates to match his intensity.
“You’ve got to regard Troy as being the focal point of that defense,” Wilson said. “That was especially troublesome for offenses, when you’re trying to get things done. It’s only a matter of time before he makes a big play.”
Reeder is the son of Dan Reeder, a former University of Delaware and Pittsburgh Steelers running back, and Cheryl Knotts, the 1978 Delaware Girls Basketball Player of the Year at Glasgow who went on to help Elizabethtown College to the 1982 Division III national title. Troy said mom can still outshoot him in the driveway, and both have been instrumental in his success.
“From the stories I’ve heard about my dad, nobody ever worked harder than him,” Reeder said. “Throughout my life, since I was very young, he has always pushed. You can’t control how much talent you were given, but you can control how hard you work. He’s pushed me pretty hard, but I wanted it.
“I wanted to have somebody to go downstairs and lift weights with, and to take me to the gym and take me to camps. My dad really enjoys that. He’s been a huge part of my life, especially in sports. He’s taught me a lot.”
Reeder said Penn State coaches have told him a redshirt year is unlikely. He hopes to begin next season on special teams, then earn more playing time as he gets used to collegiate speed and strength.
But his high school coach wouldn’t be surprised if the Nittany Lions see exactly what he saw.
“His four-year development has just been outstanding,” DiNardo said. “From the time he came in as a freshman, we knew he was a very special football player. We knew he was varsity material as a freshman.”