Call him Professor Reese.
David Reese has become a proven commodity for the Florida Gators and a beacon of veteran experience. He led the team in tackles his sophomore year and came in second on the team his junior year, despite missing three games. He also joins Brandon Spikes and Antonio Morrison as one of only three Florida linebackers since 2007 to have 100+ tackles in a single season (Spikes in 2007, Morrison in 2014 and 2015, Reese in 2017).
The middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and heading into his senior season, he’s the guy position coach Christian Robinson most often looks to as a conduit for the rest of the unit.
“He’s in the front of the film room coaching us up sometimes,” explains sophomore Amari Burney.
“Coach [Robinson] will stop talking and just ask David Reese to tell us what we got and things like that. He’s a big help…he’s like the professor in the film room. Everything he tells us, we know he’s right. We don’t second guess him or anything like that. Whatever he tells you, that’s what we’re playing.”
Out on the field, Reese is relied upon as the field general on defense, a position he has grown into naturally. With Vosean Joseph now with the Buffalo Bills after an early departure for the NFL, it’s up to Reese to pull a young, somewhat less experienced unit along with him.
“I like that he's vocal like when we playing, being vocal and communication, just makes everybody else's job easier,” explains sophomore Ventrell Miller.
“He's one of the guys that we look at for leaders but he's just like us just being in the defense new but he just, on the field he's a better communicator. He's getting everybody else where they need to be and talking and alerting stuff before the play so it makes us play faster."
For Reese, who came up under the tutelage of current league players like Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone, passing along what they taught him is the least he can do for those that now look to him.
“I try to just get them boys everything that I got from different players here and growing up the same as them. So kinda know the system a little bit better so I just wanna get them to think as fast as I do on the field,” says Reese.
He’s already seeing improvement in new faces.
“I feel like everybody’s got on it; we even bring in young guys like Jesiah [Pierre], [Ty’Ron] Hopper along, they’re getting better. Hopper’s really been standing out. He’s had a great camp. He’s one of those guys, his speed is like Bureny, he’s one of those type of guys.”
The senior also knows this is his last year to help shape the future of the Gators so the Michigan native has become fully immersed in different teaching techniques, doing whatever he can (minus the glasses and tweed jacket) to impart wisdom on his charges, as Burney reveals.
“He’s watching, even when I go out there and he’s not on the field with me, he’ll pull me to the sideline and just talk to me and tell me what I did wrong, things like that.
“He puts us to the test. Sometimes he won’t say anything and I’ll be like ‘David, what do I got?’ and he’ll be like, ‘You should have known’. You just got to know your position and be helpful to him, too.”
The latter is an evolving learning technique—something Burney compares to not only a professor but a parent—but one that Reese says has actually been working.
"I want them to learn for themselves. I just don’t want it to be easy cause they’re all competing also. So they don’t need cheat codes all the time. If they’re in with one person, they need to talk, get to know each other.”
And like a proud parent or teacher, he can stand back and see his protégé carrying on the legacy he’s shaping in them for years to come.