To really be a factor in the Central Region this season, the Thomas Dale Knights will need a great season from 6’1” 225-pound running back D.J. Reid. After a breakout performance in 2011 in which he rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, Reid is the man in Dale’s backfield and is drawing comparisons to other running backs in Dale’s rich running back history.
“He [Reid] runs like Rudi Johnson, but he’s got the size of Ken Oxendine,” said Thomas Dale head coach Kevin Tucker. “That’s the best of both worlds, especially when you see how this kid moves.”
Reid’s ‘moves’ include 4.39 40-yard dash, great agility and a much improved power game under the guidance of running back coach Henry Jefferson, who coached Johnson extensively during his time at Thomas Dale. Reid also credits learning a better power game to now Hampton Pirate Lorenzo Fields, who shared carries with Reid last season.
“He [Reid] is a freak of nature,” said Thomas Dale quarterback John Ford. “In practice it seems like one minute I’m handing him off the ball, he’s getting hit, and a blink later he’s in the end zone.”
Three former Thomas Dale running backs have gone on to play in the NFL. Johnson was a pro-bowler with the Cincinnati Bengals. William Henderson, a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, played fullback in the NFL and won a Super Bowl. Ken Oxendine played with both the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins. Reid will be eyeing another great Thomas Dale running back’s record in Nick Fleming, who rushed for 2,030 yards in a single season.
“Breaking the record would be a major accomplishment,” said Reid. “I’d be ecstatic personally, but I want to improve on last season as a team as well.”
That humility is something that is recognized by the Thomas Dale coaching staff and teammates. After last year’s pivotal victory over Meadowbrook, a game in which Reid rushed for 181 yards, Reid took a photo with himself and his offensive line and made it his profile picture on Facebook.
“He’s quiet and focused in the locker room,” said Tucker. “Definitely has the respect of and is well-liked by all his teammates.”
The Knights have been a powerful run-first team for the last fifteen years, and this season will be no different. While Tucker expects Reid to see 20-25 touches per game, the third year coach was quick to point out that all of Thomas Dale’s premier running backs had one thing in common – all of them had a solid back-up. When Reid needs a rest, sophomore Eric Finney will carry the ball for Dale.
Contacted by many schools, Reid is considering Virginia Tech and the Big East’s South Florida. Reid has plans to make an official visit to South Florida in the near future.
“I’d say right now it’s about neck-and-neck,” said the senior on his college considerations.
The Knights start the season Friday at home against L.C. Bird. Game time is 7 p.m. Also on the slate this week is a great match-up as Highland Springs travels to Meadowbrook for a 7 p.m. kick-off and Matoaca will face Clover Hill on the road at 7:30 p.m.