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August 21, 2013Oregon football has been on a search for all things speed for the last decade. Whether it be the pace of practice, the offensive game tempo or the players they recruit, the program has been pressing on the accelerator and keeping its foot down. But one former Duck is taking it to a higher level.
Former defensive end Nick Reed has taken his relentless pursuit of his target from Autzen Stadium to the NFL, and now on to Pilot School with the United States Air Force.
Duck Sports Authority caught up with the former Oregon standout to get an update.
"Right now I am at Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas," began Reed. "I am awaiting the start of my pilot training. That makes me a 'casual lieutenant'. I used to do odd jobs but now I work at what we call the CINC (casual in charge of casuals) desk here where you coordinate guys' jobs now. I am pretty much just waiting for pilot training to begin in November."
As an Oregon Duck, Reed was spectacular at defensive end being named a First-Team Academic All-American and First-Team All-Pac-10 after both his junior and senior seasons, capping it off with a First-Team All-American nod after his senior campaign.
After being chosen by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2009 NFL draft, Reed spent four years in the league with four different teams before moving on to his latest adventure.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti knows Reed well after five years together.
"Nick Reed may be one of the toughest mentally and physically, full-speed all of the time young men I have ever coached," said Aliotti. "Whatever Nick Reed pursued, he was going to be good at it."
The man charged with trying to slow down Reed in practice during those years at Oregon was offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, who concurred with Aliotti's assessment of Reed's motor.
"Nick Reed was relentless," said Greatwood. "That is the way you have to describe him. He had a relentless attitude towards the game, and then he coupled that with excellent technique. You get that kind of a player and no matter what he is going to succeed.
"I actually recruited Nick when I coached defensive line here and that is what I saw coming out of high school. Down at Mission Viejo was a kid that just never, ever, ever stopped. He never took a play off. You want that kind of a kid. He would have been even more heavily recruited if he had the so-called prototypical size."
The most recent success for Reed was graduating from Air Force Officer Training School, earning his commission as a second lieutenant.
"It was mentally challenging and stressful," admitted Reed. "I did not get a lot of sleep. Your days are jam-packed. You are up at 0430 and you are up doing homework until 2330. They give you more than you can do in a day and they say 'get it done'. Time management and working with your flight or team and making priorities is key. They induce a lot of stress and want to see how you react."
Predictably, the physical part of the training was not an issue for the former professional athlete.
"OTS was not at all what you would expect for your military indoctrination," said Reed. "It is not the Full Metal Jacket boot camp kind of thing. The Air Force Officer Training School PT was not too tough. You knew what you had to do to max out the PT test and that was all I could control. I wasn't working before I went to OTS so all I did was gear up for that to make sure I would max that thing out."
The transition from leading a football team to becoming a leader with one of the Armed Services does not surprise people who know Reed.
"Even though he was not a real outspoken guy, he was very much a leader on his teams," recalled Greatwood. "He was one of those guys that, if you wanted to get yourself pointed in the right direction, you just looked at the way he handled himself on and off the field."
One year ago, Nick Reed was working out with the Minnesota Vikings. That is distant past to him and he is not looking back.
"I am doing right now what I always wanted to do," said Reed. "The NFL was a detour for me that I definitely couldn't pass up. I am more excited for pilot training to start than I ever was for NFL training camp to start. It was an awesome time in my life, don't get me wrong. If you ever get a chance to play in the NFL, go ahead and do it. It's a lot of fun."
And next up for Reed is not just your average Air Force Pilot School. The University of Oregon All-American was accepted into the services' premier program.
"I am in ENJJPT, Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training," explained Reed. "In the middle of OTS which was my commissioning source, I had to put together a packet, sort of like a civilian resume. Then I sat in front of a board which I believe was three colonels. It was like a job interview pretty much. You tell them why you want to go to ENJJPT.
"The biggest difference between ENJJPT and normal pilot training is everybody tracks to a T-38. In pilot training no matter where you are at, everybody starts out in a T-6 which is a big, single-engine turboprop airplane. It is a pretty cool airplane, supposed to be a lot of fun to fly.
"At the other bases, depending on how you do in the T-6, you either track to a T-38 which is a jet trainer, the T-1 which is the heavy trainer for any non-fighter aircraft pretty much, or you go to an Army base for the helicopters.
"At this base you track directly from the T-6 to the T-38 which is the fighter trainer. Historically this base puts out a lot more fighter pilots than any other base. That is the reason I wanted to come here. We will get the coolest airplanes to fly in my opinion. In meeting the other guys who came here that is the reason for most of them too."
His former coaches have no doubt whether Reed will survive his upcoming training.
"I think this guy is an absolute winner," said Aliotti. "I would not be surprised if he becomes the best pilot of his class.
"Whenever you have guys like that, special guys, the Nick Reeds, the Chad Cotas, the Michael Clays, the Kenny Wheatons and the Taylor Harts. I could go on and on. The guys that really get it. The cerebral guys that understand the game and then have that high motor and that great confidence and leadership, it really helps your team. I wish he was here right now."
In November, Nick Reed will begin his 55-week training course with the 80th Flying Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. While there, his former school will provide him with some much-needed entertainment.
"Oregon is the only football that I care about now," admitted Reed. "I was never a big fan of NFL football having played. The only thing I like about it is watching guys I know like Max (Unger). But I love watching the Ducks play. I don't follow all the off-season stuff but when you are living outside Oregon, it is fun to put your Oregon gear on and represent. I am looking forward to that this year."
Much like the University of Oregon and its fans looked forward to watching Nick Reed every day for four years.