Class, Guard, football keeping him busy
By John Bassetti
Generally, the “protect and serve” motto is used in law enforcement circles, but James Reese may adopt a “play and serve” mantra as he navigates down a two-pronged path, starting at Thiel College.
The recent Hubbard High graduate began football camp as a freshman at Thiel last month, a day after swearing in with the Pennsylvania National Guard.
He’s trying to win a starting spot as a safety for the Dan Blume-coached Tomcats, after playing under Brian Hoffman at Hubbard, where he registered 90 total tackles, had three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, one interception and four passes defended.
Despite a military commitment that adds another wrinkle to the typical high school-to-college transition, Thiel understands the ramifications of having a player whose obligations may require a disruption to the team.
“First, I hold members of our armed forces in the highest regard,” said Blume. “My brother is a medically retired Army veteran, so I have an even greater appreciation for the commitment of our military men and women. I’m confident that James, his commanding officer and I will be able to figure out a plan that will allow James to get the most out of his Thiel College and military experiences.”
At first, Reese didn’t think he’d have an opportunity to play college ball until Week 9 of Hubbard’s 2017 season.
That’s when the 5-8, 165-pounder got a call from Westminster, then attended a game at the New Wilmington, Pa., school. He also visited Waynesburg.
“Others showed interest, but after visiting Thiel twice, that’s where I wanted to be,” Reese said.
Although Reese didn’t see Thiel’s head coach during his visits because Blume was on his honeymoon, Reese got a call soon afterward.
“He said, ‘Sorry we missed you. We want you to come to Thiel,’ “ Reese said of Blume’s reaching out.
Hoffman was complimentary of his former player.
“He was an overachiever who worked hard to earn a starting role,” said his high school coach. “Character-wise, he was a good kid - someone you could count on coming to practice every day; dependable. I think he’ll take those same attributes into the military. He has the right demeanor for it. James has a good work ethic and is able to take coaching, because he’s definitely going to have to take it in the military. He’s one who could thrive on that type of structure and do very well.”
Academically, he expects to pursue an accounting curriculum.
“Thiel has a 100 percent job-placement rate for graduates in its accounting program,” said Reese, whose national pride stems from family.
“My grandfather [Delbert Clark of West Middlesex] served 38 years in the National Guard, so I definitely thought I should do my part in serving the country. I had it in the back of my mind my entire life. It just so happens that I can work it out this way with college, football and military.”
Reese, seemingly suited for a disciplinary style, is committed to the National Guard for the next eight years, after which he could renegotiate his contract.
After boot camp and AI (advanced intelligence) training, Reese is obligated to give one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer. However, if deployed, he’d have to drop everything and serve the minimum of a year for federal reasons – like a war, or for as long as needed for emergencies at the state level.
Reese, the respectful and value-oriented son of James and Alice Reese of Hubbard, joined the Pennsylvania National Guard because he’ll be living in the Commonwealth most of the next four years. After his swearing-in in Pittsburgh, James had just 24 hours to report to Thiel for football camp.
He has up to six months to start boot camp in Oklahoma. His National Guard outpost will be the Hermitage Armory.
“My parents are very supportive and make the process a lot easier,” the 18-year-old said of the full plate he has set for himself - a schedule that also includes two, eight-hour workdays in Hubbard before practice back in Greenville.
“I’m a soldier in the United States Army,” said Reese, who saw action on special teams on three kickoffs in a season-opening 44-16 loss at Alfred University on Sept. 1.
“It was a little rough,” Reese said of the thumping Thiel took on the road this past Saturday. “I definitely want to see the field more,” he said of his participation in future games. “I guess I’ve got to wait for my chances.”
Austintown Fitch freshman Willie Beverly is also new to Thiel’s team this season.
James’ father played at Sharon High and Reese’s younger brother, Tyrell, is a sophomore player at Hubbard this year.ep