By Van Adams, Player Engagement Insider
In celebration of Father’s Day, we profiled a few NFL Legends to see what they have been up to since retiring from the NFL. This ‘”Up Close With” series delves into the fatherhood aspect of their lives, with particular emphasis on Legends and their daughters, and granddaughters.
Known to be formidable competitors on the football field during their playing careers, the Legends profiled for this series share sentiments on fatherhood revealing a side many outside of their homes rarely, if ever, get to see with candor and transparency. Each one beaming with pride as they talk about all of their children and grandchildren.
Jake Reed, former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver, spent nine seasons in the NFL. He combined with teammate Pro Football Hall of Famer member Cris Carter for 207 receptions, which set an NFL record at the time (1994). Reed and Carter became the first receiving duo to gain four consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.
Reed, a product of Grambling State University who also spent time with the New Orleans Saints, retired after the 2002 NFL season and now calls Frisco, Texas home. He spent the early years of his retirement in business with ownership in an Arena Football team and a pizzeria. Basketball became his sport of choice to keep fit.
“I loved being in Minnesota and enjoyed all of the lakes. Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and me would go out fishing all the time, I really enjoyed that. I would have stayed in Minnesota but it was just too cold,” said Reed, who grew up in Covington, Georgia.
Today, with football in the rearview mirror, Reed, 48, no longer plays basketball and has moved on from owning businesses. Instead, he opts to spend time volunteering as a mentor and being with his family.
“As I raise teenage kids, I can tell them one thing as the parent but a lot of times it doesn't sink in until someone else tells them,” said Reed who spends most weekdays mentoring high school boys at Christian Academy in Texas. “For some reason when someone outside their family tells them something, it could be the same thing their parents may have told them, it’s like a light bulb goes off and they get it. If I can be that person that helps them hear the message, then great.”
Reed and wife, Vinita, who he met at Grambling during the later part of his college career, have been married for 21 years and have two children, son Jake Jr. (JR), 20, and daughter Jaevin, 18. The Reed children have undoubtedly inherited their parents athletic DNA, their mom was an athlete in her own right as college cheerleader with solid gymnastic abilities.
“My son, JR has been playing football since he could hold a football, we began playing catch early on,” Reed said. “He played basketball and soccer, but naturally gravitated toward football and focused on that in the ninth grade. He’s in his sophomore year of college now, and is a pretty good athlete. He’s a 6’2” 190lb safety. ”
“Now Jaevin, she pretty much did the same sports as my son, Reed said of his daughter who will attend Texas A&M on scholarship this fall where she will major in biology and be a member of the track and field team. “She played soccer, took dance and runs track. In the ninth grade she focused in on track and broke a lot of records in Texas. Her fastest time in the 200m is 23.7 and her fastest time in the 400m is 54.8. She’s pretty fast; I didn’t like running like that (laughs). She’s very sharp too; she took honors classes all the way through school. Our kids are doing all the right things that a parent would want.”
More from Jake Reed on fatherhood:
On the moment he learned he would be a dad for the first time.
My whole attitude towards life changed. Once my wife became pregnant I realized that a lot of things I did had to change. Especially when I found out it was going to be a boy. I wanted to be the best dad I could be. My dad was a good dad, but I wanted to be a better dad. So I honed in on being the best I could.
On the moment he learned their second child was a girl.
We didn't want to know the sex of the baby at first, but as we got closer [to the due date], I really wanted to know. So I got the doctor to tell me. I was excited it was going to be a girl, although I didn't know what I was going to do with a girl (laughs). I know what to do with a boy. My friends always told me boys don't require a lot but girls do. It was all very exciting.
On raising a daughter versus a son.
When my son was growing up, he would be okay to do whatever I was doing. If I was watching TV he would sit with me and try to imitate everything I did. With Jaevin, she would stand in front of the TV and want my attention so she could show me her new cheer, or her new tumble routine. She didn't care what was else was going on.
Having a girl has been such a joy. It really makes you change as a man. It makes you treat your wife even better than you ever imagined because you want your daughter to see how a man treats a lady. You want your boys to see it too, but you really want the girls to see it.
On having a “daddy’s girl”.
We do a lot of things together just the two of us. We go to the movies and dinner, and have a special bond. I joke with my wife all the time; I say, “I think I’ve spoiled her too much”. The guy she dates is going to be in trouble out there. I don't think Chili’s or TGI Fridays is going to work for her. He’s going to have to step up his game when he takes her out (laughs), but I wanted to spoil her a little. I want her to know how good life can be and that that life is about choices. Everything you do in life from picking a boyfriend to dating to picking friends, it’s all about choices.
Anytime you can get me up dancing to and singing Rhianna and Beyoncé songs, I know I have really softened up a lot (laughs). We have a lot of fun. I thought I wanted all boys, but having a daughter, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
I always told my kids they could date, but I didn't want them to have a boyfriend or girlfriend in high school because I didn't want anyone to stake claim to them and things get too serious because they can lose focus.
I talk to Jaevin about dating, I talk to her about my experiences and what guys think if you carry yourself a certain way- your first impression is what people are going to think about you. I talk to her about the different clothes she should wear and shouldn’t wear like workout tights are for workouts; you don’t walk around in those. How you dress will sometimes cause people to treat you a certain way. It’s not fair, but it happens sometimes. So I talk to her from my high school experiences, my college experiences, and my days in the pros. We keep it real with each other.
On the joys of fatherhood.
I’m so thankful to God for blessing me with great kids and being able to watch them grow. Every parent would say they have great kids, and say, ‘My kid is the greatest,’ and I’m one of those parents.
One thing I know, I’m not going to be here forever and as a parent one of the greatest joys for me is watching them grow into smart, very intelligent young people who can handle themselves in certain situations.
For me, the joy is not just watching their accomplishments on the track or football field, it’s watching the way they carry themselves when they are around me and what people say about them when they are away from me. That’s been a great joy, it makes me feel like I did something right. I don't care what I messed up in football, or in the business world, as long as I get it right with my kids, life is great.
On what advice he’d give someone becoming a father for the first time.
Stay close to your kids. Stay involved and communicate with your kids. Remember it’s not about what you give them; it’s about the time you put in with them.
Van Adams is an award-winning entrepreneur and small business owner with expertise in sports business and business development. Over the last decade, she has represented a number of iconic sports celebrities and executed marketing campaigns for their personal celebrity and/or business ventures. An advocate for women in business, Van is the creator and producer of Gathering on the Greens, a women’s golf initiative, and serves as President of the Board of Directors for the NYC Metro Chapter of Women in Sports and Events where she oversees programming and strategy. Van spends her spare time in a test kitchen baking or on a golf course working on her short game.