Reed broke his leg, not his will
The part that stunned Lanesboro football coach James Semmen was that there wasn’t even a whimper from Jake Reed.
Reed, his top linebacker a year ago, had just broken the femur in his left leg as he was covering a kickoff against LeRoy-Ostrander. It was the kind of serious and complicated injury that doctors later said he might never completely recover from, that he might be left with a limp.
But instead of Reed crying out from pain that Oct. 9 night in Lanesboro, there was just silence from him, and then finally a wave and a smile to the crowd as he was carted off the field.
Phil Reed was a whole lot less surprised than Semmen. Jake’s father had seen this before.
"When Jake was 10, he broke his arm riding a motorcycle," Phil said, "and he didn’t even cry."
It made his son’s announcement almost expected later that football night from his St. Mary’s Hospital bed. Same with the fact that Jake, now a Lanesboro senior, has actually lived up to it.
"The very night that it happened, Jake told me that he’d be back, that his career wasn’t over," Phil said.
Ten months later, there is one thing you can absolutely count on.
It’s that when Lanesboro dashes onto its home turf tonight, taking on Mabel-Canton, picking out the game’s toughest hombre will be a piece of cake.
He’ll be wearing No. 23, a 6-foot, 180-pound guy with a now-surgically installed titanium rod keeping his left leg together.
That’ll be Jake Reed. Yes, he’s back, and he, his family, Semmen and the rest of the Lanesboro football community couldn’t be happier about it.
It’s a return that couldn’t have happened without Jake’s undaunted personality and his craziness for football. It also couldn’t have happened without all of the support he got during this journey.
"Getting back (to football) mattered to Jake," Phil said, "so it mattered to us."
It took about three days to determine just how much it mattered to Jake, a starting linebacker at Lanesboro since his sophomore year. After checking out of the hospital four days following the accident, he was instructed to spend the next two weeks in bed.
He couldn’t do it. Three days after arriving home, there he was crutching his way onto the Lanesboro football field. It was game night, and he couldn’t stay away.
A couple of days after that, there he was in the Lanesboro weight room, doing upper-body work. Jake’s comeback had already officially begun, well ahead of schedule.
Reed couldn’t help himself. The 17-year-old admits to a couple of addictions. One is football, the other is thrill-seeking. They go nicely together.
"I’ve always loved football," Reed said. "Since the seventh grade, it’s the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do. I love the adrenaline rush."
The help that Reed got in order to feed that football hunger was immense.
Countless teammates and coaches were there with him as he worked day after day to get back on the field. They included now-retired Lanesboro track and field coach Tom Hatleli, who devised a specific workout to rid Reed of his limp. It worked. By the end of the track season, Reed was competitively running sprints, as smooth as could be.
Still, nobody was there for Jake any more than his father. When Phil wasn’t running the Lanesboro High School halls with Jake, he was building him a weight room at their house.
And when he wasn’t doing that, he was simply with his son, heaping him with praise over all his efforts.
Now, it’s all paid off. Today, Lanesboro’s season-opener, Jake will take the field never looking or playing better.
His mind, too, has never been in a better place.
"Jake has a lot more appreciation for what he has," Phil said. "He really understands now when people are going through challenges. It’s had an amazing effect."