West Forsyth football coach Adam Clack was just figuring out how to use wide receiver Austin Reid last season when the Wolverines played South Forsyth on Oct. 17. The junior had missed the previous three weeks, including two games, because of a concussion. Finally back, Clack decided to take the slot back and move him outside to great results: Reid caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown and ran for another touchdown in a 27-14 win.
“It kind of opened my eyes,” Clack said. “He’s just so hard to cover.”
But Reid’s impact didn’t last long. The following week, in West’s linchpin game of the season against Lambert, he fractured his wrist on the first series of the second quarter. The Wolverines went on to lose the game and Reid for the rest of the season, one that didn’t include a state playoff game for West for the first time in four years.
The narrative around Reid became he was the best brittle football player in Forsyth County. After all, he’d broken his ankle on the first play of the last game of his freshman season. Now he’d missed four more games as a junior. Reid started to hear doubts he’d ever make it through a whole season healthy.
“It was really all I heard from people,” Reid said. “Everybody – kids in the school, friends. That really motivated me.”
This season, Reid is showing that he’s a weapon wherever West uses him. At receiver, he’s second in the county in receiving yards (396) and first in receiving touchdowns (seven) despite just 14 catches. On special teams, he’s returned 10 kickoffs for 366 yards and a touchdown. He’s also rushed for a touchdown.
As West (3-2, 3-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) rides a three-game winning streak into this week’s rivalry game against North Forsyth, Reid has become arguably the county’s most explosive offensive player. He’s averaging 26.3 yards every time he touches the ball, and he’s scoring a touchdown almost one-third of the time West goes to him.
“I feel like now I’m really showing what I can do,” Reid said.
Clack attributes much of Reid’s improvement this season to the gains he made in the weight room. Reid has always has track-speed. He gave up playing baseball going into high school so he could focus on running sprints in the spring, and it’s given him an advantage of quickness to run by defensive backs. But with more strength, Reid is more of a complete receiver.
“If you play off-coverage on him he can run by you,” Clack said. “He’s strong enough to where if you press him he can get off the press. That’s what’s kind of given him that dynamic ability.”
Reid never worried about the physical recovery of his injuries. To be sure, it was grueling. His ankle injury required surgery to insert a plate and four screws and intense physical therapy for weeks after.
After each injury, Reid returned to the weight room as soon as he could, doing whatever exercises that wouldn’t affect his injury.
Then the real work began.
“Once I healed up, from that it was more a mental aspect, like is it going to get hurt again?” Reid said. “That was really the big thing.”
But there was only one way to alleviate his doubts.
“Really, you’ve just got to try it,” Reid said. “You can’t talk yourself out of it. You’ve just got to do it.”
At West practice Monday, Reid and the Wolverines’ wide receivers went through drills to practice fade routes to the corner of the end zone while defended. When it was Reid’s turn, he lined up on the left side across from West senior Reed Bagwell.
The whistle blew. Reid shoved Bagwell aside just enough to get behind him and cut toward the left corner of the end zone. He tracked the ball, leapt to catch it and landed.
Bagwell was quick to inform Reid he landed out of bounds. Reid was quick to playfully throw the ball at Bagwell as they ran to the back of the drill lines.
A year ago, Reid was watching from the sidelines. Now, he’s healthy and happy again.
“That’s what sports is for to me,” Clack said. “You go through those adversities, you have an injury or you had a set-back, and kids that stick with it and keep fighting and keep battling back, they grow. … I really see that in Austin. He’s had some set-backs, and he continues to fight and be a great teammate.”