Talented Reader juggles academics and athletics

by - Senior Writer -

CLEMSON – D.J. ReaderD.J. Reader
Fr. Defensive Tackle
#48 6-3, 335
Greensboro, NC

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has a schedule that would make most business people blush with shame.

Reader, Clemson’s freshman defensive tackle out Greensboro’s Grimsley High School, wakes up before six every morning to work on conditioning, and then he has a full class schedule that lasts until after noon. Then it’s off to work out with Jack LeggettJack Leggett
Baseball Head Coach
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’s baseball team – right now he is working on getting his arm loose – before heading over to the WestZone for meetings and film study.

After that, it’s out to the practice field for a few hours of work on his football skills, supper with his football teammates, and only then can he work on his studies and homework before turning out the light for some much-needed rest.

That schedule is typical for Reader on Mondays and Wednesdays – even though he calls Wednesdays his worst days – and Tuesdays and Thursdays are used for work with tutors as he delves into his study of business management.

As if that isn’t enough, he spends some time on Friday back over at the baseball complex, working on his swing and hitting approach.

Amidst all of the pressure and stress of not only being a first-year college student who has to balance his studies but also juggle the demands of two sports, it would have been easy for Reader to accept that he might not play this season and simply adjust to his surroundings.

That wasn’t in Reader’s plans, however, and he managed to get in on a handful of plays in Saturday’s season-opening win over Auburn, opening eyes with how well he played during his time on the field.

“That [playing early] was kind of a goal for me,” Reader said Tuesday. “I really didn’t expect it to happen, but that was the goal coming out of high school. I didn’t know if it would happen, but I wanted to work hard. You know you are good in high school, but then you get in college and you know these guys are really good. I just didn’t know what would happen.”

Reader said he didn’t know heading into the game if he would even see the field.

“Going into the game, I really didn’t think I was going to get too many snaps,” he said. “I just wanted to be prepared if I did. That is kind of the mindset I had in the locker room.”

He said he had to battle a case of the nerves as well.

“It was kind of nerve wracking,” Reader said. “Before the game I was really nervous, and when I came out of the tunnel I was really nervous. And then on the sideline, I was waiting to just get it in. Once I got in, I think I played pretty good. He [Dan BrooksDan Brooks
Assistant Coach / Defensive Line
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] told me to play like I practice – it’s the same game. He told me to just keep doing what I have been doing.”

Reader said he felt like he did a good job of playing his gaps, but knows he has to work on his pad level if he wants to continue to see the field.

If it comes down to work ethic, however, that won’t be a problem – he has already increased his bench press from the 375 pounds he was benching when he arrived on campus to 405 pounds, and has lost weight down to 329 pounds. He says he would like to lose down to 315 pounds and be in perfect shape for both football and baseball.

“I can definitely see the changes in conditioning,” he said. “I am at 329 and want to get 315. I am just going to keep working and see if I can get down there.”

Reader said he has been working with pitching coach Dan Pepicelli on adding a second and third pitch to his repertoire, to go along with his mid-90’s fastball.

“I am just pitching right now, and it is going really good,” he said. “I am just getting my arm loose and stuff and getting back in the flow of things. Baseball is very important, a big passion of mine and I want to continue playing.”

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