When Justus Reed announced he was entering the transfer portal, he expected it may take a couple days to start hearing from suitors. He had recently finished the best season of his career, but FCS Youngstown State does not provide gobs of exposure. Still, Reed thought he'd get some attention in the coming weeks and go from there.
Virginia Tech proved otherwise.
"When I tweeted that I was entering the portal, a few hours later the entire staff had followed me on Twitter," said Reed. "They started hitting me up and I had to tell them they had to wait because I wasn't officially in the portal just yet. But, once I was officially in the portal it was a wrap. I talked to just about everyone on staff. They were the first program to hit me up, actually."
It's obvious why the Hokies and other major Power 5 programs are trying to pluck Reed out of the transfer portal for his final year of eligibility. He finished last season with 42 total tackles, 12.5 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles. He earned MVFC first team All-Conference honors for his stellar campaign.
His production was so great that the NFL Draft was a serious possibility.
"I contemplated [entering the Draft] and talked with my family and talked to people about where I would go," said Reed. "But, coming from FCS and having some injury troubles I projected as a late round pick or a free agent. I just decided that I'd be better off having two really good years back to back."
Those injury troubles have set Reed's career back two years. In fact, 2020 stands as his seventh year as a college player.
In 2014, Reed signed as an in-state recruit with Florida. The Clearwater product redshirted his first year with the Gators, then played in a reserve role his redshirt freshman season. As a redshirt sophomore, a knee injury derailed a chance to fight for a meaningful spot on Florida's ever crowded and talented defensive line depth chart.
Reed's Florida teammate, Alvin Bailey, transferred to Youngstown State the year prior, and helped the Penguins reach the FCS National Championship game.
"I knew I didn't want to sit out a year, so that's why I decided to go down," said Reed. "I also had already had a bit of a relationship with [then Youngstown State head] coach Bo [Pelini]."
Reed played in 7 games his first season at Youngstown State (2017) and racked up 5 sacks. During the season, he suffered a dislocated elbow that kept him out for around a month and a half. That offseason, the injury bug hit again as Reed tore his achilles in a simple jogging workout.
"I went to the NCAA to apply for a medical redshirt and they actually ended up giving me two years," said Reed.
Last fall accounted for one of the two aforementioned seasons of eligibility, and Tech is a possible destination for the second. Reed (No. 4) impacts the game as a disruptive presence in the backfield. He has a balanced arsenal of speed and power moves that keeps blockers guessing.
On the above 1st-and-10, he bent his body and completely beat the tight end. He collapsed the pocket even while being held. Two plays later, Reed showed off a really strong inside swim move to beat his blocker for the sack.
At 6'3" 270 lbs., he's a big body with a lot of twitch in the market for a new home.
"I'm a relationship type of guy," said Reed. "I don't want it to be just like I'm a free agent. I mean, essentially that's what I am because I'm only going to be there for six months. But, I want it to be more than that. I want to build relationships and make an impact."
Reed has an official visit to Tech on the books for April 11, an opportunity for both parties to build on their relationship face-to-face.
"In talking to the coaching staff it seems like they have a lot of really good guys up there. So, I'm just looking to go there and see it for myself and see what the school's like," said Reed.
A huge draw to Virginia Tech is the tag team d-line coach combo of Bill Teerlinck and Darryl Tapp.
"They embody exactly what I want to do," said Reed. "I want to have the career that they're at. Just people that are good at what they do and love what they do. Learning from someone who's been there before is huge."
In contrast to most high school recruits, fancy locker rooms and lounges won't highlight his trip.
"I'm not really worried about that stuff," said Reed. "I just want to do what's best for me football-wise and surround myself with good people."
"Coming to Youngstown, obviously it's an FCS school so we don't have all the bells and whistles like everybody else. We're blessed to have everything we have here on the FCS level. But obviously, you get a little more bells and whistles at the higher level."
Reed wants to decide on a school in April. The Hokies are a high choice, he also has an OV set with Florida State on April 18, and LSU is in the conversation too. Pelini recently took the defensive coordinator job in Baton Rouge.
In the meantime, Reed has been working out at Youngstown State.
"I'm not allowed to work out with the team and stuff like that," said Reed. "So, the strength staff has been really good with helping me whenever they can with my workouts. I'm still getting in all the work I can, so I'll be ready when I head somewhere in the summer."
Reed credits the Youngstown State program for being in his corner through the process.
"I got really lucky," said Reed. "I have a really good support system here. Everyone here's been really cool and understanding. I'm still talking to the coaching staff here in Youngstown. They just want what's best for me. They understand what I'm trying to do. I know if I did decide to stay here in Youngstown that they'd welcome me back with open arms. They just want what's best for me."
Should Reed opt for the Hokies, he's poised to be a veteran contributor among a d-line full of young guns. Adding another edge rusher would also give the staff the opportunity to redshirt another incoming freshman without sacrificing depth.
In a time where it seems like the transfer portal is Virginia Tech's arch nemesis, a well overdue reinforcement may be on his way to Blacksburg.