Note: The following appears in the Florida State gameday football program. To purchase a copy of the program while supplies last, send a check for $6 to Clemson Athletic Communications; P.O. Box 31; Clemson, S.C. 29633 with your return address.
By Rachel Eagleton // Athletic Communications
It is often said that family is everything. For senior defensive tackle D.J. Reader, family has brought the best times of his life and taught him values that have helped him throughout his life. But his family has also faced struggles that have become some of the hardest moments of his life.
One year ago, Reader lost the person who had influenced him from the moment he was born…his father.
“My father was my best friend,” said Reader. “Losing such an impactful person in my life was hard to get through. Transitioning into life without him was the hardest thing I had to deal with in my life…period.”
Reader said his father had his back and instilled life values in him from a very young age.
“Some of my favorite memories of my father are when we would go outside and practice all kinds of drills, running back and forth to baseball tournaments and him taking me to every practice.
“My dad wouldn’t let me miss practice or school for anything. All of those memories are good because I see now that he was teaching me the value of hard work and how important it is.”
Reader’s father is not the only family member who influenced his life. His mother also had a large impact on him.
“My mom has always been there for me and has been my rock,” smiled Reader. “Even through the loss of my father, she never shook. I can always be honest with her and tell her anything that I am struggling with.”
Both of Reader’s parents instilled in him the value of education and how it will lead to success later in life.
“Seeing both of my parents work so hard to get where they are instills in me that education is extremely important. They always challenge me, and because of that, it has stuck with me my entire life that I will always be challenged and I can work through anything.”
The native of Greensboro, N.C., will play his 41st career game as a Tiger against Florida State. He has had a solid career with 118 tackles. While he has started just four games, he is approaching 1,000 career snaps.
Reader came to Clemson as a dual-sport athlete and played on the Tigers’ 2013 baseball team, making him a part of two top-25 squads in one academic year. In high school, he was the team MVP in baseball as a junior. As a senior, he batted .529 and was a standout pitcher.
Reader will graduate in December with a bachelor of arts degree in communication studies.
“I have really enjoyed my education and my experience as a student. I always knew it was my key to success. My dad was a teacher and my brother is a teacher, so I knew it was my key to get out of any trouble I am in. Education is the only thing I can control.”
While he is excited to receive his degree and the possibility of playing football at the next level, he might not be done furthering his education just yet.
“After graduation, if the NFL isn’t an option, which I hope it is, I plan to go to graduate school and become an athletic director for a high school,” he said. “I really love working with kids at the high school level and I want to be able to impact them before they get to college.”
He wants to influence high school students because of the influence he received during his high school career.
“It’s an important age group to focus on, especially for males who haven’t had a strong male role model in their lives. It’s important for them to see that their athletic director is a strong, positive male figure, as they are becoming men themselves. I had a lot of great influences in my high school career, so I want to give that back to someone.”
When he transitioned from high school to Clemson, Reader found a new role model in roommate and teammate Stephone Anthony.
“Stephone made a huge impact on me since I have been here,” said #48. “He has always been in my corner and been there when I needed someone to talk to. He was my roommate for two years. He taught me a lot as a player and as a man growing up.”
Anthony was a first-round draft selection of the New Orleans Saints in 2015 and is starting for that NFL team this year.
When Reader graduates from Clemson, he wants to be remembered for the effort he put in, both on and off the gridiron.
“I want to be remembered as a good guy and football player. I want to be remembered as a person who gave his all when I was here, no matter the circumstance.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team. I didn’t expect for us to drop off (after Clemson lost eight starters on defense from the 2014 team), but we have really stepped up. It is always ‘next man up’ for our team, and we have proved to the world that we can go out and dominate.”
Reader will miss a lot about Tigertown as he begins the next transition of his life into the real world.
“I am going to miss my brothers, especially the younger guys who I have come to know and love. I am going to miss this atmosphere and playing college football.
“You only get such a short window to play and there is nothing like playing in Death Valley with third downs rocking and Death Valley rocking constantly. The fans are great. You never hear any negative things from the true fans.
“Clemson is simply a great place to be.”
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