Thanks to the Ohio State football program and how it teaches players about life off the field as well as on the field, Armani Reeves felt prepared to move forward with his life after his college football career came to an end.
Now, Reeves is working to help provide the same kind of preparation to football players at another school in the Big Ten East.
A cornerback for the Buckeyes from 2012-14, Reeves was forced to give up his career playing football – and his dream of playing in the NFL – earlier than planned due to head injuries. Reeves remained with the team, though, as a student coach, and continued to impress Ohio State’s coaches and staff with how he helped his former teammates and handled his business off the field.
So when Maryland strength and conditioning coach (and former Ohio State assistant strength and conditioning coach) Rick Court called Ohio State director of player development Ryan Stamper last summer, and asked Stamper whether he had any recommendations for Maryland’s opening for a coordinator of player development, Stamper gave him Reeves’ name.
"And I kind of just took the ball and ran with it after that," said Reeves, who is now entering his second season as Maryland’s coordinator of player development after being hired to the role last July.
A member of Urban Meyer’s first three teams at Ohio State, Reeves was among the first Buckeyes to reap the benefits of Ohio State’s Real Life Wednesdays initiative. Now, Reeves is among those leading the way for Maryland’s own version of that program.
While Reeves says he has tried to put his own twist on things, the way he coordinates the player development program at Maryland – whose head coach, DJ Durkin, was an assistant coach for Meyer at Florida – has certainly been influenced by his experiences at Ohio State.
"One of the things Coach Meyer does a great job of is not only teaching us how to good football players, but how to be great men," Reeves told Eleven Warriors. "And that leads to just doing things right off the field, whether it being a good husband, father or just a good worker altogether. And that’s really translated to what I do here at Maryland.
"He is one of the best coaches ever to coach college football, so you would be foolish not to at least try some of the things that he’s done," Reeves added. "So we have some similarities, but we also want to make it our own and make it our program. And I feel like we’ve done a great job at that."
Even though Reeves now works for a rival school, he says he still keeps in touch with Stamper, Meyer and others from Ohio State, and that they are always willing to answer his questions if he has them.
"They’re always willing to help but mostly, that’s family," Reeves said. "That will always be family. And those guys, they have really helped me, especially after I was done playing, trying to find my identity, trying to find what my purpose is in life after I stopped playing football, and they’ve always been helpful to me.
"I really consider them like family, and any time I get a chance to talk to them or they text me or I text them, they always answer really fast or answer when they can, and I really appreciate that. Because that just shows you that once you’re a Buckeye, you’re always a Buckeye, and that family atmosphere never goes away, even if you go to another Big Ten school."
Reeves acknowledged, though, that it is a little weird to be working for a team that plays Ohio State every year – especially since the Buckeyes’ roster still includes a few of his former teammates. That feeling was particularly profound, Reeves said, when the Terrapins played the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium last season.
"I’m always used to being on the home side for the games, and that was the first time I was ever in a visitor’s locker room at the stadium, and all that was just so weird to me," Reeves said. "When I got there, everyone acted like I had never left and they were able to talk to me. But it is weird because like I said, all those guys, they’re family and I want to see them succeed but I also want us, at Maryland, to succeed as well."
As he looks back now on his time at Ohio State and career playing football, Reeves said the biggest thing he misses about being a Buckeye is the camaraderie he had with his teammates. His continued role within college football at Maryland, though, still allows him to feel some of the same camaraderie as he helps the Terrapins’ players work toward their goals.
"When you’re grinding and working 24/7 in the field, in 100-degree heat in the summertime with your brothers ... I don’t think anything will ever compare to that," Reeves said. "But the guys here, they’re great guys, they work really hard, they want to be successful, they want to do great things as a team, and I just want to help them get to those things, even if they ask me, 'What did you do when you played?' or 'How did you handle situations when you played?' If I can help them from that standpoint, obviously I will do that. And so I guess that’s the closest thing I’ll get to having that same camaraderie and just living it through these guys and making sure they have the same or close experience that I had."
“Once you’re a Buckeye, you’re always a Buckeye, and that family atmosphere never goes away, even if you go to another Big Ten school.”– Armani Reeves
While Reeves still misses playing football, he says he hasn’t felt any lingering effects of his head injuries in his post-football career, and has remained in shape athletically – even participating in the American Flag Football League and in American Ninja Warrior, an obstacle course competition televised on NBC.
Reeves does know, though, how abruptly a football career can come to an end, and that’s given him a valuable perspective – in conjunction with Maryland director of player development Kevin Glover, who played in the NFL for 15 years – as he helps the Terrapins prepare for their own post-football lives.
"I played at a high level at Ohio State, but obviously injuries ultimately stopped me from playing. And you have to learn how to adjust and live after that," Reeves said. "You can’t just stop living because football is done. You’ve got to keep on going. So I always tell these guys you have to prepare the stuff off the field like you’re not playing football anymore.
"Make sure your résumé’s on point. Make sure you know how to talk. Make sure you know how to dress well. Make sure when you’re in a public setting, where someone that you may not even know is looking at you could give you a job when you’re done playing, that you’re doing all the right things outside of football. Because all those things matter."
While Reeves says he doesn’t know yet whether he will continue to work in player development for the long haul, he says he loves what he does. He also says he could see himself working in marketing for a sports brand such as Nike or Adidas. There is one thing, though, that he knows he doesn’t want to do, even though former Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs told him he’d be good at it.
"I know one thing: I don’t want to coach," Reeves said with a laugh. "I could. Coach Coombs used to get on me all the time, he was like, ‘You’ll be a great coach if you just stuck with it.’ But I’d rather help guys in the capacity that I am now."
Going into his second year at Maryland at just 24 years old, Reeves is still learning on the job as he grasps the differences of working for a college football team instead of playing for a college football team. That said, he feels proud of what he and his team were able to accomplish in his first year on the job, and he expects to do an even better job in his second season now that he has a year of experience under his belt.
"I’m enjoying what I’m doing and I feel like I’m doing a great job," Reeves said. "All I knew was Ohio State, so to come to a different school, being around different coaches, different people, different support staff members that I wasn’t used to … we’ve done a really good job of communicating and becoming a team but obviously, that’s something that I had to learn the first year and I’m going to be doing a lot better job of going into the second year. And I feel like I’ve already made improvements on that."
Reeves will see his former team once again this year on Nov. 17, when Ohio State is scheduled to play at Maryland Stadium in its second-to-last game of the regular season.