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fordfixer
10-25-2009, 01:22 AM
Steelers kicker Reed's rep is up for debate

By Scott Brown, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, October 25, 2009
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 49735.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_649735.html)

Who's Steelers kicker Jeff Reed? There are no easy answers.

Is he the drunken professional athlete who squared off against a Pittsburgh police officer outside a North Shore bar last Sunday as the cop cited a teammate for public urination, as police allege?

Or is he the generous jock who donates more than just his time and celebrity to help poor kids by reaching into his own pocket?

"You can always say you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we've heard that speech numerous times upstairs, coach (Mike Tomlin) saying not to be that guy," said Reed, 30, last week after the incident became public. "When I hear that, I actually tune it out because I know I'm not going to be that guy, and then, something like this happens."

On the surface, Reed appears to take off-beat to another level even for a kicker, a notoriously eccentric lot.

In the past, Reed has appeared in public in teased, bleached-blond hair.

His weekly television show on PCNC, a WPXI affiliate, is a zany mix of interviews and bar chatter at Mario's on the Southside.

On the Internet, pictures of a shirtless Reed at a bar appear on a dubious site named Drunkenathlete.com.

But teammates think enough of Reed that they named him a team captain a rare honor for a kicker.

"He's a stand-up guy that does a lot of things the people don't know that he does. I've never been around him and seen him turn down an autograph," Steelers long snapper Greg Warren said. "We'll be at dinner, we'll be at the mall, we'll be anywhere just walking around, and someone will come up to him. I'm like, 'C'mon, Jeff; let's do our thing.'

"And he's more worried about making sure that person gets their autograph."

Teammates also know Reed as a prankster.

During training camp morning practice at St. Vincent's College in Latrobe, Reed found a frog, and punter Daniel Sepulveda placed it in the helmet of wide receiver Limas Sweed. That Sweed doesn't like frogs made the joke even better.

Reed also had help for the prank that still elicits laughs from his teammates.

On the last day of camp, Reed arranged for several buses to park along the hill that overlooks the practice fields. More than one player thought Tomlin planned to cancel morning practice to bus the squad to the movies.

Tomlin, who was in on the gag, instead had them practice as scheduled.

"That was hands down the best ever," cornerback Deshea Townsend said. "He always has something going, but he's a great guy.

"When people talk about what they miss when they leave the game, it's being around the guys in the locker room. He's one of those guys, whenever it's over, we're going to miss him."

Reed, in his eighth NFL season, is an unlikely success story.

Reed didn't start kicking a football until his senior year of high school. He spent two seasons kicking at North Carolina after earning a spot as a walk-on.

After an unsuccessful tryout with the New Orleans Saints, Reed almost was ready to give up on playing in the NFL.

The Steelers called him in November 2002. Reed beat out Michael Husted and Joe O'Donnell in a tryout to replace the injured Todd Peterson.

Reed, who's in the final year of a contract that pays $1.43 million this season, has been as steady as any NFL kicker. He has two Super Bowl rings to show for his efforts.

Reed's success has made him a celebrity at East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, N.C., where he starred as a soccer player.

His coach, Larry Bosc, said Reed is always willing to pose for pictures, sign autographs and talk with students.

Ginny Knor, director of marketing and public relations for the Western Pennsylvania division of the Salvation Army, said Reed dips into his own pocket to help poor children aided by Project Bundle-Up, a drive sponsored by WTAE-TV and the Salvation Army.

"He doesn't tell us, but we've heard he's taken the kids outside of the store and bought them little extras," Knor said. "He is exceptionally kindhearted when it comes to those children."

Reed' off-field profile took a hit in February, when he smashed a paper towel dispenser and yelled at an employee of a convenience store in New Alexandria, Westmoreland County.

Reed pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with the incident.

The altercation last Sunday outside of McFadden's left Reed facing charges of simple assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public intoxication. Tight end Matt Spaeth was cited for public urination.

Reed publicly apologized to the Steelers for any distraction he may have caused.

His agent, Don Henderson, has said police overreacted.

Reed declined to discuss the particulars of the incident and instructed his agent not to discuss it.

Reed and those who know him well said he shouldn't be defined by run-ins with police no matter the chatter on Internet message boards and radio talk shows.

Gene Grabowski, an image expert, said pro athletes have to be more careful in this era of instant communication. The public's insatiable appetite for gossip and compromising photos are the trade-offs for the fame and fortune athletes enjoy.

"There are greater responsibilities, greater burdens, greater scrutiny," said Grabowski, senior vice president at Levick Strategic Communications, a Washington company that specializes in crises management. "It's difficult. One can sympathize with famous people, but they have to adapt."

Reed, a regular at Pittsburgh sporting events and especially Penguins games, said the unwanted attention won't change him even if it makes him more wary.

"I'm not going to stay home and hide from the public just so they don't know who I am," Reed said. "I'd much rather be a part of the public eye because I enjoy it."