Senior wideout Joe Reed heard his name called on Day 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft, as the former Virginia standout was picked by the Los Angeles Chargers in the fifth round with the 151st overall pick. A native of Charlotte Court House, Va. and longtime Virginia fan, Reed concluded his storied Virginia career as the Cavaliers’ all-time leader in career kick return yards and should prove to be a potent kick returner at the next level.
“One thing I like to complement my size with is my speed … just being a bigger guy with the ball in my hands and being able to run fast … [it] obviously helps me a lot when I’m returning kick-offs,” Reed said.
Reed made an immediate impact upon arrival in Charlottesville, as he was one of only nine true freshmen to see the field for the Cavaliers. In the 2016 season, after not seeing the field in the first three games, he became the primary kick returner for Virginia, totaling 678 yards.
In his sophomore year, Reed had a quietly solid season in his first full year starting for the Cavaliers, honing his kick-returning skills and also making an impact on offense. He returned two kicks for touchdowns while also serving as a Swiss army knife for Virginia on offense, catching passes out of the backfield and in the slot as well as running the ball off of jet sweeps.
Reed’s junior year proved to be his breakout year, as he formed a formidable receiving corps with Hasise Dubois and Olamide Zaccheaus for the 2018 season, and continued to serve as a special teams weapon returning kicks. Garnering third-team All-ACC honors as a wide receiver, Reed posted 465 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as he formed an instant connection with quarterback Bryce Perkins.
Nevertheless, the 2019 season was Reed’s breakout year as a returner, as he earned first-team All-ACC specialist and all-purpose honors and was named a first-team All-American. Time and time again, Reed gave the Virginia offense exceptional field position with his vision as a returner, racking up 796 return yards and two kick return touchdowns. As a wideout, Reed continued to serve as one of Perkins’ primary targets, netting 679 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
To cap off the season, Reed was honored as college football’s top return specialist with the Jet Award, becoming the first ACC player to receive the award.
Following his senior season, Reed had a stellar performance at the NFL Combine, posting a 4.47 40-yard dash and 21 reps of the 225-lb bench press. Given his strength and vision, many NFL teams asked Reed if he would be willing to switch to the running back position, and as such Cavalier fans may see the former Virginia star in the backfield come fall.
Reed joins a Chargers team that has often struggled to make the postseason despite having a talented offense. When asked about lining up with both three-time pro bowler Keenan Allen and former Clemson standout Mike Williams at wide receiver, he had a simple answer.
“Sounds like a deadly combination,” Reed said.
As Reed moves on to Los Angeles, he will be sorely missed by Virginia fans. Nonetheless, the contributions he made to Virginia football — leading the program from a 2-10 season in 2016 to three-straight bowl appearances — will be forever remembered as he looks to make his mark on the NFL.
This story has been updated to include quotes from a press conference with Reed Saturday afternoon.