AMES, Iowa — Doing all the small things right. Coming down to the little details.
That’s what Iowa State linebacker Colby Reeder focused on this summer, he told reporters during media day in August.
A transfer from the University of Delaware, Reeder is a fresh face in the Cyclones defensive room, but he’s not new to the college game. If you look him up on YouTube, you’ll find highlight reels littered with sacks, fumble recoveries and interceptions from his time both at Salesianum School in Wilmington and Delaware, where he was Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018.
Reeder, from Hockessin, has carried that success all the way across the country, to Ames and the Big 12. Most recently, he was named co-Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.
And he added to that highlight reel against Iowa on Saturday.
Making an impact in the Iowa State-Iowa game
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half of the Cy-Hawk game, the Hawkeyes had possession of the ball on the 18-yard line.
Quarterback Spencer Petras took the snap and backed up to about the 10-yard line before slinging a pass to Alec Wick. While Iowa’s redshirt freshman wide receiver dove in an attempt to make the catch, so did Iowa State defensive back T.J. Tampa. He managed to get a hand on it, but Tampa deflected the ball.
Right into the hands of his teammate, Reeder.
“When I tipped the ball, I didn’t know what happened to the ball,” Tampa said Tuesday. “But then I seen him running and I’m like, ‘That’s Colby.’ I feel like he needed that, and we needed that as a defense to keep the game going, keep pushing on and I feel like everything fell into place.”
Tampa credits Reeder with the interception, which is technically true. But when Reeder was asked about the same play, he was quick to turn the attention back on his teammate.
“Tampa made an amazing play on the ball,” Reeder said. “If you watch the replay, he had full extension, hit (it) up in the air and we had some guys around, but it bounced to me. At that point, that’s a gift that he basically wrapped up and tossed to me.”
Regardless of who should get credit for the play, Reeder secured the ball and ran, before Iowa’s offense took him down around the 12-yard line. Iowa State’s offense couldn’t convert his interception into points before the end of the first half, and Reeder knows what he has to do next time.
“You just gotta secure it and try to take it to the house,” Reeder said. “Gotta get there next time, though.”
The interception highlighted a successful day on defense for Reeder, who recorded four total tackles, one tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries, as well. It’s a level of consistency that has earned Reeder a starting spot immediately, especially after he posted five total tackles, three quarterback hurries and two broken up passes against Southeast Missouri.
Reeder twice scored touchdowns on fumble returns at Delaware and had four career interceptions but missed the 2019 season after back and shoulder surgeries.
There is no question that the Delaware transfer and redshirt senior is a fit in defensive coordinator Jon Heacock’s system.
And Reeder’s teammates and head coach agree.
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Hard work pays off
Colby Reeder has had big shoes — er, cleats — to fill.
Coming to Iowa State as a linebacker, Reeder was tasked with filling the gap left with the departure of one of the best linebackers in Cyclones’ history, Mike Rose, and another star performer in Jake Hummel.
Reeder has more than proven he’s not only capable of playing at this level but has the skillset to make an instant impact in Iowa State’s defense. Head coach Matt Campbell would tend to agree.
“He’s a veteran football player,” Campbell said. “He’s already played a lot of football and meaningful snaps, (and) comes to us as a great player from Delaware.”
So, what exactly has made Reeder an instant hit among Iowa State coaches, fans and media?
For starters, he worked hard to earn the starting position.
“I talk a lot about Xavier (Hutchinson), how he practices, how he goes about his day-to-day operation,” Campbell said. “Colby is really the same way, and I think we saw that in winter workouts. He was a star in their workouts, and then you saw spring practice and how he handled spring practice and fall camp.”
Reeder put in months of work behind-the-scenes before taking the field in an Iowa State jersey. He understood coming into a new program that he would have to prove he belonged in the starting lineup, and, at least according to Campbell, it seemed like that work ethic never wavered.
And now, Iowa State football can benefit from a player who, had he not entered the transfer portal, would never play in Ames.
“What you’re seeing now is really what his own process has led him to be able to be,” Campbell said. “What he did Saturday was fantastic. As good of a performance that we’ve seen in terms of what we asked him to do.
“He was playing Mike, he was playing Will he was playing Sam; at times he played defensive end. There were a lot of things we asked him to do throughout the football game. That’s a credit to him to be ready, but (he) played a phenomenal football game for us.”
Maturity, leadership and taking notes from his brother in the NFL
Reeder knew coming to Iowa State might also involve him taking on a leadership role.
The Cyclones’ defense does boast senior stars like Will McDonald IV, O’Rien Vance and Anthony Johnson Jr. But behind those players are the next generation of Iowa State defenders, and Reeder understood that at his position, he would need to be a role model for the freshman and sophomores.
Reeder says that he wanted to share his knowledge to help the team grow. He comes from a different background, transferring from Delaware, and hoped that he could help the younger players in some way.
Besides, Reeder is used to getting advice from others, although his source of corrections is a bit closer to home.
“My brother [San Diego Chargers linebacker Troy Reeder] has been very beneficial along the way,” Reeder said. “I mean, he’s had success in the NFL. He’s watching my games, so if he sees something, he’s texting me saying, ‘Fix this, fix that.’ It goes a long way, just helping and the encouragement.”
Reeder could be that for the next group of Iowa State linebackers. But regardless of his impact on the younger Cyclones, the Delaware native is already a name many fans in Ames won’t soon forget.
Alyssa Hertel is the college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at email@example.com or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.