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Florida Football

Parental Perspective: A Reese family reunion years in the making

September 5, 2020
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When David Reese was about nine-years-old, he asked his mother, Patricia, a question that would prove to be prophetic.

“He said, ‘Mom, how would you feel if the Lord blessed all three of your children to go to the same college?’ Patricia Reese said. “And I said, ‘Son, that would be exciting. At least we’d all be in one place, and I could put everything I got into all of you in one place.’”

While Patricia’s daughter, Deborah, may end up going to a different college, this utopia came closer to being a reality in May when David’s brother, Stewart Reese, joined David and the Gators as a graduate transfer from Mississippi State.

Stewart and David were close as young kids, but they didn’t do everything together like you might expect out of siblings who share an interest in sports and are only a few years apart. Stewart is reserved and keeps his social circle small like his dad, Stewart Reese Sr., Patricia said. Conversely, David is a “social butterfly” like his mom who acted like the older brother and tried bossing Stewart around when they were young.

“[Stewart’s] real laid back,” Patricia said. “He’s really calm. He doesn’t get involved in a whole lot. He doesn’t get angry. You have to really push him to an extent in order to get him upset or mad. David has always been like a little hothead sometimes, and he is easy to get upset. But through the years, I’ve trained them that you don’t respond to everything someone does or what they say. He has been pretty mild and mellow.”

Stewart was born 10 pounds and 22 inches, and he loved to eat. So, the idea of playing football naturally appealed to him. However, the local youth leagues wouldn’t let him play because he was so much larger than the other kids his age. Since Stewart couldn’t play, Patricia wouldn’t let David play football either. She wanted them to do things together.

When Stewart was 11 and David was 9, a young man told the family about a league in Port St. Lucie that allowed bigger kids to play but only on the offensive line. Stewart joined a team and has played on the offensive line ever since.

Meanwhile, David loved basketball and showed very little interest in football, Patricia said. He didn’t like getting hit and having people yell in his face. However, Patricia made him join the team with his brother, and he served as the team’s kicker. The coaches tried numerous times to convince David to run the ball, but he wouldn’t do it. Eventually, they coaxed him into doing it.

“When they made him run the ball, David was running down the field, and he saw all of those boys coming at him,” Patricia said. “David hit those brakes, turned around, and went all the way around the field over to the other side where there was no one, and he was fast. David was very fast. He ran past all those boys and ran a touchdown. The crowd went wild.”

That was the only time the coaches got him to do it, and he quit football after that season. When David got older, a couple of guys in the community asked Patricia if David could play on their Pop Warner team. She told them that if they could find a sponsor for him, she would talk with Stewart Sr. about him playing. They came up with the money, and David joined their team.

They taught David some of the skills of the game, and that’s when David started to love the sport.

Shortly thereafter, a different coach approached Patricia and told her that David wasn’t playing the correct position. He convinced her to let David play on his 7-on-7 team, and he played safety and cornerback.

He became the first freshman to make the varsity team at Fort Pierce Central High School in 30 years, she said. He played basketball until his sophomore or junior year of high school, and he switched his focus to football as a sophomore.

“When he played basketball after the football season, he used to tell the guys on the basketball court, ‘Bring your mouth to the football field, and I’ll show you what I’m going to do to you,’” Patricia said. “He started drawing guys from the basketball court to the football field, and that’s when he really started to get into the sport of football.”

A high three-star recruit, Stewart received offers from a bunch of Power Five programs, and Florida State told him that he was their No. 1 choice at his position, she said. However, they lied and wouldn’t let him commit. One of the coaches on his way out later told the family that the Seminoles dragged him along in hopes that it would be too late for him to sign with a team they would have to play against.

After his Florida State hopes were dashed, Charlie Matthews, an assistant coach at Fort Pierce Central, reached out to then-Mississippi State cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley. Buckley brought him to the offensive staff’s attention, and they invited him on an official visit.

Stewart was originally supposed to fly to Starkville, but Stewart Sr. wouldn’t fly and Patricia couldn’t go that weekend. So, he and his dad drove about 12 hours to the visit. It’s a good thing they did because more than 4,000 flights were canceled that weekend due to weather, including the one that they were supposed to be on.

Once on campus, Stewart told Dan Mullen that the coaches needed to meet his mom. They spoke with her on FaceTime and flew into Fort Pierce for an in-home visit the following week. Afterward, Stewart told his parents that he felt comfortable on his visit and liked Mullen and offensive line coach John Hevesy.

“Even though it was far away from home, he said it felt like being in a home environment, being like in a family environment,” Patricia said.

Illinois and Miami, among other schools, made a late push to get him to visit, but Patricia told him not to go since his heart was set on Mississippi State. She didn’t want him to go on those visits and take away time with the coaches from kids who were genuinely interested in those programs. He committed to the Bulldogs two days prior to signing day in 2016.

“I knew that was a long way from home, but I felt real comfortable when I talked to Coach Mullen and Coach Hevesy when they came into the house,” Patricia said. “I just really felt like they were going to take very good care of him and he would be in a family setting away from his family.”

Two years later, David was a four-star linebacker who attended The Opening in Oregon. He unofficially visited Georgia and Michigan, and Auburn also showed strong interest.

However, Patricia made it very clear to David that Mississippi State was his only out-of-state option. She wanted it to be easy as possible to support both of her sons. After making the trek to Mississippi State several times, David decided that he didn’t want to go to college that far from home. Patricia didn’t think Miami would be a good place for him, so his decision essentially came down to Florida and Florida State. He unofficially visited UF in late July of 2017.

“When he went to visit, I said, ‘Well, son, do you feel like you can see yourself in this setting, in this environment?’” Patricia said. “And he felt pretty good about it, so I said, ‘Well, Florida will be pleased. Florida it is.’”

David committed to Florida two days later, and UF was his only official visit.

Despite their sons playing at schools more than 500 miles apart, things worked out well for Patricia and Stewart Sr. to support both of them. They had a pretty good idea that David was going to redshirt as a freshman in 2018, so they only attended two or three Gator games. They attended one or two of Stewart’s games per month.

Of course, they had the unusual opportunity to watch their sons’ teams play each other in Starkville in 2018. They watched Gator Walk instead of the Dawg Walk but sat on the MSU side of the field. Patricia wore a custom-made T-shirt with Stewart and Mississippi State on one side and David on the other. She had both of their names and numbers on the back.

“People was looking at me like I was crazy, but after I explained to them that I had a son on each team, they were like, ‘Wow! That’s exciting.,’” she said. “So, they knew I was going to be yelling for both teams no matter whose side I’m on.”

However, the experience was a little underwhelming for her. She didn’t feel like the Bulldogs program was as accessible to families as it was under Mullen.

“I was a little disappointed because I was so used to a certain environment when Coach Mullen was there,” she said. “It was like they cared for the people. Then after he left, the people were so snooty, and they were so inconsiderate. They didn’t care about the families. They didn’t care what was best for the families. You could never reach out to the coaches.”

They were in the early stages of trying to figure out which games they would attend last season when David tore his Achilles before fall camp and made the decision easy.

David had performed well in spring practices and positioned himself to see some snaps in the fall as a rotational pass-rusher, so the injury was extremely frustrating and disappointing for him.

“David has never been a sideline kid,” Patricia said. “He hates being on the sideline. When he played basketball, he hated being on the bench. He is a hard-worker, and whatever it takes for him to not have to be on the bench, he will do that.

“He’s always thinking about what he could be doing out there to help the team if he was on the field.”

Almost immediately after Mullen and Hevesy left Mississippi State for Florida, rumors made their way around the internet that Stewart was also on his way. Those rumors resurfaced every offseason until he finally transferred to Florida this summer.

As it turns out, those seemingly never-ending rumors had some truth to them and probably originated from some conversations Patricia and Stewart had.

“I had it in my head,” she said. “I was like, ‘Lord, work it out.’ I tried to get Stew to transfer when Coach Mullen and Coach Hevesy and them left Mississippi State. As his mother, I felt like, ‘Those are your coaches. You need to come with your coaches.’”

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Stewart is an extremely loyal person and wanted to give the new coaching staff a fair chance before jumping ship, she said. He felt good about the new staff at first but that feeling deteriorated over time. With the Bulldogs making another coaching change this offseason, he finally heeded his mom’s advice.

“I wanted him to be with Coach Mullen and Coach Hevesy the whole time,” she said. “I just felt like they had his best interests at heart and no matter what was going on, when it was going on, I could always call them. I always felt like I could call them and say, ‘Look, this is going on, this is happening. Not that we don’t feel like Stew is responsible or could handle himself, but this is what is going on behind closed doors, and if Stew explodes and goes off on somebody, I don’t want you to be surprised and say, “What’s happening” and think Stew done lost his mind. There are some underlying issues that are taking place.’”

With the Gators’ 2020 season just three weeks away, Stewart projects as a starter at one of the guard spots. He started 26 games at right tackle for the Bulldogs before moving to right guard in 2019. He’s a bruising run-blocker whose versatility should prove extremely valuable in a season unlike any other.

Meanwhile, David has recovered from the torn Achilles and looks to get back into the rotation as an edge rusher this season.

The Reese brothers’ journey to UF was a rollercoaster filled with recruiting lies, coaching changes, and injuries. But the journey is finally complete, and Patricia can’t wait to see her sons play together again.

“It’s almost like a dream come true or a conversation come true,” Patricia said.

“I’m excited about the fact that David and Stew actually get an opportunity to be together again playing on the same team.”

Parental Perspective: A Reese family reunion years in the making

2,226 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 9 days ago by EricN
Dan the Man
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Good family.

Since eligibility this year doesn't count can't Strwart come back and play next year?
Ethan Hughes
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Staff
Dan the Man said:

Good family.

Since eligibility this year doesn't count can't Strwart come back and play next year?
He can if he wants.
OrangeandBlue
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Our football parents impress me.

From Mrs. Reese to Mrs. Wingo, to Mrs. White to Chad Wilson. All of them come off as great role models for their sons.
Jtkeat18
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It seems like this staff really makes the parents feel important and a big part of the program. I'm surprised when I hear about other programs not making this a priority.
EricN
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Preaching "family" makes me feel good about our program.
The complete antithesis of the past 2 head coaches
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