Aug. 4, 2013
AUBURN, Ala. - The words sting. Trovon Reed doesn't deny that. He's heard and read that he's a bust, that he's not physical enough, that he was never good enough to begin with.
Reed, a fourth-year Auburn wide receiver, takes it all in. But the criticism, mostly from people who know nothing of the real story, pushes Reed to work harder and longer, to run an extra lap, watch an extra video.
"A lot of people think Trovon Reed doesn't exist anymore," Reed said Saturday after the second practice of preseason camp. "I just have to go out there and get better. I read a lot of stuff and hear a lot of stuff. I still believe in myself and know what I can do. I have my teammates behind me."
Reed is a leader on the Auburn football team, admired by teammates on both sides of the ball. No one questions his work ethic. The only sensible response Reed says, is to prove all those people wrong.
"Growing up, I was always the smallest on the field and everybody always said I couldn't do this or couldn't do that," Reed said. "I defeated the odds then, so I can do it now."
On Nov. 13, 20090, in Thibodeaux, La., the crowd was gathering at the high school gymnasium. Reed, a hometown hero and one of the nation's top football prospects, was going to announce his decision. It was a joyful day.
The secret was already out, and if there was any doubt, it was erased when Reed's family members arrived wearing Auburn orange and blue. Sure enough, minutes later, Reed said he would sign with Auburn, snubbing home-state power LSU.
Thibodeaux coach Dennis Lorio tried to put on a happy face, but it didn't work. "It's a long time until signing day," he snorted.
Reed shrugged off his coach's disappointment, committing on his late mother's birthday. He talked about the family feel he experienced at Auburn and about playing in offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn's hurryup, no-huddle scheme.
For the next two-plus months, Lorio did all he could to convince Reed to back out on his commitment to Auburn. He pressed him for hours in his office, finally convincing to take a visit to LSU. None of it worked. In February, Reed signed with Auburn.
A high school quarterback with uncommon speed and athleticism, Reed was recruited as a wide receiver. And he went to Auburn with big plans of making an immediate impact.
"Oh, man, I thought it was going to be just like high school," Reed said. "I thought I was just going to come in and take over. Obstacles came with it. Now I feel good. No injuries, and God bless that. I'm just ready to roll."
Almost four years later, he has dealt mostly with injury and disappointment.
Reed's true freshman year was ended by a shoulder injury. He could only watch as the Tigers won the national championship.
As a redshirt freshman, he was team's leading receiver when he suffered a broken collarbone with Auburn safely ahead of Florida Atlantic. At season's end, Malzahn left to be head coach at Arkansas State. Last season, Reed never seemed to really fit into coordinator Scot Loeffler's offense as the Tigers went 3-9.
Reed gained weight as he was asked to do, but like the rest of the offense, he never really got on track. But when the season was over, the disappointment soon faded. Malzahn was named head coach.
"Oh, man, I was too excited," Reed said. "As soon as I heard, I gave him a call. He was the reason I was here in the first place, so it was great."
And that brings us to the summer of 2013. Reed says Auburn's wide receivers believe in what they're doing. They believe in Dameyune Craig, their position coach. And the more they are disrespected, Reed says, the harder they work.
"When you mention the best receiver group in the country, not one person that writes about it would say Auburn is the best," Reed said. "We come out every day motivating each other. When Quan (Bray) drops a ball, I'm all in his face. When I drop one, I want them to be all in my face. As long as we are pushing each other and we have Coach Craig, nothing can stop us but us."
Reed talks like a man with a mission, a man happy about where he is and who is with him. He says he learned how to lead from Darvin Adams and Emory Blake, who have moved on. Reed has a national championship ring. And he was part of the worst Auburn season in 60 years.
"This young group we have now, I'm trying to help them. I've been here when we won and been here when we lost. I know what it takes."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: