When in high school Verlon Reed probably had a picture of what playing football at Ohio State would look like in his freshman season.
As he was living it, reality probably was a little harsher than what he pictured.
Fresh off the glamorous life of being a senior prep standout quarterback at Columbus Marion Franklin inked to go to the local powerhouse college football program, Reed was met with the real life of a young player trying to catch on.
“It was hard,” admitted Reed, who was accustomed to being his team’s biggest playmaker. “The transition from high school to college isn’t easy, even if it seems like it is going to be.”
The days of being the best player on his team that always made all the game-changing plays were met with not playing any plays at all.
In the midst of a redshirt season last year, Reed found himself not even playing the position he loved, instead in the midst of the grueling process of trying to learn how to play wide receiver — a vastly different position and role.
Though the Buckeye coaching staff promised Reed when he was in high school that he’d get the chance to play quarterback for the Buckeyes, the presence of Terrelle Pryor on the depth chart for what should have been through the 2011 season was the roadblock to any days he planned on standing in the center of the huddle.
“They put me in a position they thought was best for the team,” a humbled Reed said. “I didn’t argue with that. Of course it hurt me a little bit, but you cant let that hold you down. I stuck with it and I have a great opportunity ahead of me.”
Trying to learn a new position, Reed had quickly faded out of the spotlight before suddenly becoming an afterthought. It got to the point where the 6-foot, 195-pounder wondered if anyone remembered him.
Former head coach Jim Tressel — the only one that mattered — did.
Toward the end of Reed’s conversion to wide receiver, the last week of spring football, Tressel was asked who he felt was a “dark horse” heading into the 2011 season.
Reed, a name that had seldom been mentioned over the course of the past year, was the name the former head coach threw out to the media.
“That definitely changed me a lot,” said Reed, who enjoyed a resurgence in his attitude after the attention from Tressel. “That told me that someone important had their eyes on me. You don’t take that for granted. My former head coach, he wants to see me excel.
“That was a great impression he left on me and I take that to heart. The ‘Dark Horse’ is a mentality. You are out there and you want to be the best. You want to out-run everyone and out-hustle them. You want to be the best at everything.”
Fast forward to fall camp and not only Reed now one of the names that has found the center of attention, but the former quarterback is now seemingly in position to win one of Ohio State’s starting wide receiver spots.
Blessed with athleticism that wide receivers coach Stan Drayton referred to as “natural,” Reed has finally taken to his new position. It was a bumpy ride at times, Reed admitted, but he said the end result is near.
“I can think like a quarterback and play as a receiver,” Reed said. “I know what they want within the routes and during the plays. It was a tough transition, I am not going to lie. I struggled and I had some highs and lows, but I am trying to keep things more consistent this year. I have noticed a big difference from last year.”
Taking reps with the first team alongside Corey “Philly” Brown, it looks as if the athleticism Drayton has come to admire could pay off for the Buckeyes in Reed’s redshirt freshman year.
“Verlon Reed has been very steady," Drayton said. "He has some big play ability and we expect him to be that kind of a guy for us. We want to be able to give him the ball and make something happen after the catch for us as well."
During the course of fall camp Reed showed the excellent ability to hold onto the football in coverage and the natural capacity to make plays with the ball once the catch had been made.
Though Reed admittedly understands there are technicalities within the position he has room to improve on, he envisions himself as one of the top targets on this team.
“That’s the role I want,” he said. “You always want to be the one that everyone counts on.”