Aug 16, 2013
Wide receiver Dimitri Reese was a reluctant walk-on in 2010 (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – Dimitri Reese enrolled at Auburn in 2010 because he wanted to become a nurse. A standout football and basketball player at Clay-Chalkville High School, he had no interest in college athletics.
Wednesday night, Reese, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound junior wide receiver, was awarded a football scholarship by Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn.
Reese’s journey from reluctant walk-on to scholarship football player started after he turned down scholarship offers from Jacksonville State, North Alabama and North Florida to attend Auburn.
“My dad said ‘You don’t want to try to play football?’” Reese said. “I said I didn’t. He said ‘Try it for me.’ I did, we won the national title and the rest is history. I’m so glad I did it.”
Wednesday night, after being entertained by newcomers at the annual rookie show, Reese, defensive back Blake Poole and running back Chandler Shakespeare were called to the front and told they were on scholarship.
“It was definitely a big surprise,” Reese said. “When he called my name, my heart just jumped.”
His first call was to his parents.
“My mom and dad were crying and praising the Lord and everything,” Reese said. "They did a little Holy dance.”
The price of that scholarship was high. Reese worked part-time as a pharmacy tech while facing the same demands scholarship players face. He worked at his demanding major in health education.
“You have your ups and downs,” Reese said. “When you work hard and feel like you’re not getting recognized, it’s hard to keep pushing every day. It’s definitely a hard road. Patience is the main thing. I waited my time and got blessed.”
And his Auburn experience changed on the spot.
“It’s changed tremendously,” Reese said. “No more stress for my parents. I’ll be living over in the lovely dorms. It’s great.”
Auburn wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig has warm feelings for walk-ons. When he was a senior Auburn quarterback in 1997, one of his favorite receivers was former walk-on Hicks Poor.
“He earned a scholarship my senior year and ended being the guy I would go to a lot in the games," Craig said. "It’s a tough road. They always have to do the dirty work. When you need to practice blocking, they are the guy getting blocked. When you need to practice tackling, they are the guy getting tackled.
“All these guys, I really appreciate them. I’m glad to see them earn scholarships.”
Reese, Craig said, has done all that has been asked of him and more. He’s learned every receiver position and has made himself a strong blocker.
“Dimitri has done an outstanding job of helping this team out,” Craig said. “I think he knows every receiver position across the board. He’s worked hard. He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not scared to mix it up. I’m proud of him. It’s definitely an accomplishment for him.”
Reese’s next goal is to get into a game. He says he believes this is the season it will happen.
“I’m striving for it,” Reese said. “I’m going to keep working. It’s looking pretty good for me. I’m going to keep working and do what I can. They are using me at what I’m good at doing. I’m a physical person. It’s something I’m good at it. I do whatever the coach says and get on the field and try to help my team win.”
Reese is on track to graduate next summer. He plans to apply for nursing school and play his senior season in 2014.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “If I’m still on scholarship, I’ll still be here.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: