Day 62: The Reese Express
Reese had a cup of NFL coffee with the Jets
Johnathan Reese '02
Every once in a awhile, I wonder: did Johnathan Reese really play at Columbia? Did we really have a back that big, that fast, and that good on this team?
Of course the answer is "yes," but anyone who remembers seeing Reese play knows what I mean.
The St. Louis native came to Columbia thanks to his connections with his older cousin Kirby Mack '02, (he took a medical year), and some good recruiting by Head Coach Ray Tellier.
Reese made an immediate impact in his first game, rushing for 72 yards in limited duty in the Lions 24-0 shutout over Harvard in '98 season opener. From that point on, the Columbia coaches struggled to find the best ways to use Reese as much as possible.
That wasn't always easy with veteran runner Norman Hayes '99 getting most of the carries, but by 1999 Reese was getting a fair amount of touches as a rusher and receiver.
Still, Columbia's opponents knew Reese was coming and they stacked the line against him so much in his sophomore year that ended up with just 607 yards and 6 TD's that '99 season.
Then came the magical 2000 season, perhaps the most impressive individual year any Lion ball carrier has ever had.
Reese served notice around the league with a 180-yard performance against Fordham in a 43-26 win over the Rams at Wien Stadium.
Three weeks later against Lafayette at home, Reese's 201 yards paced the Lions in a 47-22 win.
And two weeks after that Reese had the ultimate game, a 236-yard performance against Dartmouth where he not only broke the single game Columbia rushing record, he came within just a few yards of the all-time career record which he broke the following week at Yale.
Reese finished 2000 with 1,330 yards, a 5.0-yards-per-carry average and 19 touchdowns.
Reese had a bulls eye on his back again in the 2001 season, and he finished with just 967 yards and 8 TD's, but one of those scores was a 33-yarder on 4th-and-4 in the fourth quarter to beat Cornell 35-28 in Ithaca... easily one of the most exciting moments in Lion history.
Reese currently holds many Columbia records, including that career rushing figure of 3,321 yards which is more than 1,300 yards greater than Lou Kusserow's total at No. 2.
After Columbia, Reese had some chances to break in with some NFL teams. His best chance came with the Jets, but nothing much ever seriously materialized.
But Reese's years at Columbia were real and they will never be forgotten.
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