David Reese II: Path to the NFL Draft
Despite being an All-SEC Second team linebacker in 2019, with historic levels of production at the University of Florida, David Reese II wasn’t invited to the 2020 NFL Combine. After playing high school football in the state of Michigan, he’s used to being overlooked on his football journey, and knows that snub is just another obstacle to overcome on his journey to the NFL Draft.
“I always felt like I was kind of overlooked. I just feel like I’m a football player, I’m a guy that’s going to get it done. Sometimes you’re overlooked with measurables, things like that. It definitely put a chip on my shoulder.”
Love of football first formed from family
For David Reese II the journey to the NFL Draft began in Michigan. The son of a college football defensive end turned high school coach, he was surrounded by football from an early age. That exposure was infectious, and he found a love for the game watching his father’s high school team.
“My dad used to be a high school football coach at a powerhouse in Michigan. I always used to go to his games every week, used to draw up plays whenever I got the opportunity to. That’s where I my love of the game came from.”
The football IQ which would see David Reese II become the mike linebacker at Florida, began during those days and was developed in a competitive environment at the Little League level.
“I played for a great little league team. A lot of my friends played Division 1, there was like 15 of us. That was the most competition that I had before going into high school so when I got to high school it was a little bit easier. I had the opportunity to play varsity as a freshman, but I was already ready because of the little league in the city.”
Learning football fundamentals at Farmington
He played high school football at Farmington High School and made an impression playing both sides of the ball. Although he modelled his defensive game on Ray Lewis, he still made a formidable running back with 13 touchdowns over his final two years.
“I preferred defense because I felt like that was what I was best at, and what I’m suited for, but I also loved running the ball. I just love the game. When they needed me on offense, I had some good running back days. I could still do it now.”
David Reese II also shone on special teams during his time at Farmington, blocking three field goals. It would be a skillset that would be further honed during his time at Florida and one that is critical to his chances of being drafted to the NFL.
“Special teams is very important. Football is like a chess game and special teams is like a piece that you can’t win the game without. It’s all about positioning, putting the offense and defense in the best spots possible. Special teams are huge.”
David Reese II: From Farmington to Florida
He had a highly productive career at Farmington, with over 240 tackles, 8 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 6 fumble recoveries over his final two seasons. His performances saw him twice voted to the All-Metro North Team and he left Farmington as a 3* recruit to continue his football journey.
“It was interesting. Being from Michigan makes it harder to get offers. Politics and everything plays a role in that part of the game. Basically, had the whole MAC during my sophomore to junior year. Then Coach Grantham offered me at Louisville when he was there and that was my first BCS offer. Then I started getting Michigan and everything else. I committed to Michigan but de-committed before my senior season. After that everything took off! I got an offer to Florida, Texas, stuff from places that I never expected!”
With multiple offers in place, it was the personal touch that led him to becoming a Florida Gator.
“Coach Randy Shannon, he’s like an Uncle to me, he’s a great guy! He came to my house telling me that he didn’t care about all the stars and everything, he knows a football player and he knows a linebacker. He basically showed me all the guys he coached before me and showed me the blueprint of what could be if I came in and worked hard. I had that trust in him, decided to leave home, and that was the best decision of my life.”
Making an impact as a freshman in Florida
It was a decision that paid off immediately with David Reese II making an impact on the field as a freshman. He appeared in 12 games, starting the last four of the season, and earning SEC Defensive Player of the Week honours as the Gators defeated LSU to win the SEC East. The transition from high school to college football was smoothed by a teammate who would double as a role model.
“Jarrad Davis was there. He was the starter, but he always used to make sure if anything ever happened or he ever got tired that we were ready to go as his backup. Alex Anzalone had a big part in it too. They made sure that we knew everything. We took more reps than them at practice and we prepared as if we were going to start the game. Coaches would throw us in to get our feet wet every so often. Then when JD went down, Coach Shannon looked at me and he said: “It’s your time, you ready?” and he threw me out there. Ever since, I’ve never looked back.”
Leadership and historic production as a Gator
With Davis drafted to the NFL in 2017, the torch of defensive leadership was passed onto David Reese II. On the field, that took the form of his fast, physical, and aggressive style leading him to become only the third Florida Gator to rack up over 100 tackles in a single season.
“I didn’t even know! But it means a lot to me just to be put in the category with those Gator greats. Guys that did it before, Brandon Spikes and Antonio Morrison, guys who also played at the next level and had great seasons. It’s an honour.”
The leadership element of his game is something that David Reese II takes great pride in.
“I want to be the guy that all my teammates look at. When the stuff hits the fan, my teammates know that I always try to get them in the best position to make the best plays. Whoever is with me is going to play faster because I’m on the field. I took pride in that and I also take pride in passing on the torch. We’ve got great linebackers gonna be there for the next two years and then behind them those boys gonna be riding. It’s gonna be a powerhouse team.”
The SEC has prepared David Reese II for the NFL
Although 2017 was successful from a statistics standpoint for David Reese II, the Gators struggled to a losing season. Jim McElwain and Randy Shannon gave way to Dan Mullen and Florida rebounded with 10 and 11 win seasons over Reese’s junior and senior seasons. The Gators went undefeated at home, something that he looks back at fondly when discussing what it’s like to play at Florida Field.
“Oh man there’s no better feeling. I’ll reminisce about it always. Now I see why so many people post throwbacks and why Gator nation are so close together. There’s no better feeling. I wish I could go play another down in the swamp again. I’m happy I got my last wins in the swamp and we ended up closing the swamp out undefeated this year.”
After four seasons in Florida, David Reese II heads to the NFL Draft with 44 games of SEC experience under his belt. The conference has the reputation of being the best in College Football. That experience has prepared him for life in the NFL and has proven he can play with the best.
“I feel like it’s the best football in college, it’s the best football around. I talk to a lot of guys who went from playing at Florida to playing in the NFL and they always tell me that the SEC is the best for preparing you, especially at a university like ours. Basically, the talent level is kinda comparable to the NFL. There’s always gonna be freak athletes that are better than the ones at Florida but for the most part it’s similar to what we’re accustomed to in the SEC.”
"I'm excited for the process" of the NFL Draft
In this disrupted NFL Draft process, the opportunity to impress at the Florida Pro Day was taken away. It’s just another obstacle to overcome for David Reese II. He’s been hard at work training in Miami and those workouts have been recorded and sent out to NFL teams. Although nothing is certain in the NFL Draft, there has been interest and telephone conversations with teams.
“I’ve been able to get on the phone with a lot of teams. A lot of them have my film and they tell me good things. I’m excited for the process.”
With one week to go until the NFL Draft begins from Roger Goodell’s basement, NFL teams will be finalising their big boards and trying to figure out how to best to address their biggest needs.
For those looking for a fast, physical, aggressive linebacker with a nose for the ball and a history of excelling on special teams, then David Reese II has proven at the highest level of college football that he can meet those needs. Then there’s the personal traits that define what he can bring to a franchise.
“I’m a natural born leader who’s going to bring their lunch pail to work every day. You’re not going to get any problems out of a guy like me and you’re going to get a great football player also.”
By the end of next weekend, he’ll hopefully know where he’ll be taking that lunch pail to work.
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Feature Image Credit: Florida Gators
Huge thanks to David Reese II for taking the time to speak to us. Also to Tatiana Patton at Wasserman for connecting us.