BOGACZYK: Reaves Helps Herd Football Make Big ‘Return’
The Word on the Herd-Dec. 10, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Deandre Reaves will walk through Winter Commencement at Marshall on Saturday, celebrating his graduation after finishing his course work in marketing prior to the 2015 football season.
As for that season, it was how the Herd redshirt senior ran through it that was really special.
On Wednesday, Reaves was named the 2015 Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year – a first for Marshall in its 11 seasons in the league. A day earlier, the 5-foot-10, 179-pound Reaves was named an All-C-USA first team pick as kick returner and second team selection as punt returner.
He scored a school record-tying three touchdowns on runbacks this season … and don’t forget he’s emerged as the starting slot receiver on a St. Petersburg Bowl-bound Herd (9-3), with 47 receptions for 617 yards. That was after seeing little time on the field on offense in his previous three seasons.
So, the way he is finishing his career has to be special, right?
“It’s not done yet so hopefully I can still do a couple of things out there,” Reaves said of the Dec. 26 Tropicana Field date against Connecticut (6-6). “But so far I’m very happy with what I’ve done to help the team out. What more could you ask for?
“I go out there every day and work my tail off. It’s fun seeing your teammates smile; it’s fun seeing your teammates happy. So, whatever I can do to continue to make that happen, that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
A year ago in a rout of Northern Illinois in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl, reaves made the first kick return TD of his career, a 93-yarder. This season, he’s had kick return scores of 93 (at Kent State) and 97 yards (at Western Kentucky). He also took an FIU punt back 69 yards to the end zone.
One more time, perhaps?
“Hey, if those guys (kick return team) keep blocking the way they do, I can’t say it won’t happen,” Reaves said. “So, hopefully … It would be fun. It’s always fun, so obviously I don’t know what type of scheme we’re going to come up with, but I’m not worried because I know those guys will do whatever they can to make it happen.”
Reaves said the opportunity to go onto the field in a Herd jersey again – particularly for Reaves and 15 of his senior classmates – is special.
“Just being able to take it out there one more time with our brothers, and we’re going down there to Florida so I know we’re going to have fans there, so it will be good to get out there and finish strong, hopefully.
“In Florida, it’s just more motivation. We’ll have all these fans traveling in there or going down with us. The last thing we want to do is disappoint our fans, and we’ll do everything in our power to keep getting better and finish up strong.”
The fact that it will be his 51st and final Herd game remains a notion that’s as elusive as he can be on a kick return.
“It hasn’t sunk in, it’s hasn’t,” he said. “You know, it’s crazy. It hasn’t even sunk in yet that I’m done playing in ‘The Joan’ (Edwards Stadium), so it definitely hasn’t sunk in yet that I only have one more. Like I said a few weeks ago, it probably won’t hit until Jan. 13 and (returning MU players) have to come back, and I’m waking up and I’ll be at home … ‘Hey, I really don’t have to go back.’ That’s probably when it will hit me that it’s all said and done.”
Reaves and the Herd will be playing in a bowl for a third straight season, but he thought back to the start of a career that has produced Marshall’s kick return yardage records for a single game, season and career.
“Saying we’re excited would be an understatement,” Reaves said of his final postseason trip. “We’re beyond excited, especially us seniors to down there in Florida and play one more time. If you remember a couple years back, the year (2012) we went down to East Carolina and lost in double overtime, and that game determined whether we went to a bowl game or not.
“I couldn’t imagine what those seniors felt because it feels so good to have the opportunity to go to a bowl game. We’re beyond excited and just excited to get down there. Now that we know where we’re going, we’re ready for it to come.
“It doesn’t matter who you play. You could play the (New England) Patriots, the (unbeaten Carolina) Panthers or UConn. It’s not going to change how we prepare, how we play. We’re still going to prepare and attack practices the same way. We aren’t going to change what we do. For me personally, it doesn’t change. It’s just another opportunity to get out there and have fun and do what you love to do.”
With one game to play, Reaves’ four Marshall teams have compiled a 37-15 record, with the last three C-USA contenders at 32-8 (20-4 in league play).
In its first game against an American Athletic Conference team, the Herd will be bidding for a third consecutive season of at least 10 victories.
“Two years ago, we would’ve been a lot more excited, and not to sound arrogant about our program, but winning 10 games is kind of what we’re used to doing,” the Marshall return man said of the St. Petersburg opportunity. “We’ve been doing it for a couple of years now, so we don’t expect anything less. Ten wins is the minimum. Going down there and having the opportunity to get a 10th is a heck of a feeling.”
Marshall Coach Doc Holliday often talks about his veteran players – primarily those in the 2011 and ’12 recruiting classes – “changed the culture” of his program. Reaves is one of those players, and he said he and his teammates appreciate the fact they have flipped the won-loss numbers.
“We take a lot of pride in it,” Reaves said. “My class is a part of the era of where stuff wasn’t going the way we wanted it to, so we had to go through all the mess and the blood, sweat and tears to get where we’re today.
“In no way, shape, or form was it easy or anything like that, but to see where we came from and see where we are now and were we are headed, the sky is the limit for us. We’re thrilled to say we come from a program like Marshall.”