October 28, 1998
A quarterback by trade, John Reeves has found a spot in the Purdue linebacker core. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior came to Purdue from Bradenton, Fla., as a highly-touted high school quarterback. In 1993 Reeves led Bradenton Southeast High School to a perfect record (15-0) and a 4A State Championship. One of Reeves wide receivers on that team was Florida State All-American Peter Warrick.
Reeves had to sit out his freshman year. In 1995 Reeves played in six games at quarterback for the Boilermakers and started at Ohio State in October. His numbers for the season were 26 of 57 for 285 yards. It looked as though Reeves would compete for the starting quarterback spot in the spring. However, something happened to Reeves that changed his life forever. In February of 1996 he contracted bacterial meningitis and was hospitalized for almost two weeks. He eventually recovered but missed spring practice.
Reeves worked hard to gain his strength back and started five midseason games for Purdue. He made a strong showing, too. Reeves completed 51 of 102 passes for 772 yards, including a career game against nationally-ranked Ohio State in which he threw for 342 yards. It appeared as though Reeves would step right into new coach Joe Tiller's high-powered offense and be the starter. However, it didn't work out as planned as senior Billy Dicken picked up the complicated offense and was named the starting quarterback coming out of fall practice. The choice turned out for the best for the team as Dicken led the Boilermakers to their first bowl game since 1984 and a 9-3 overall record.
Although Reeves wasn't playing quarterback, Tiller and his staff wanted to have one of their best athletes on the field. "I didn't care where I was on the field I just wanted to be able to contribute," Reeves says. The consummate team player was asked to play special teams and be a backup defensive back. He played well in all 12 contests, recording 13 tackles.
After 1997 Reeves had to graduate in four years to earn back the year of eligibility he lost as a freshman. Reeves took an amazing 21 credit hours in the spring and nine this past summer. He did graduate on time with a degree in law and society, and this fall he is working on a second degree in psychology while entertaining thoughts of taking the GRE to get into some master's courses this winter.
What about the 1998 football season, you ask? For Reeves it is just another year and another position. Where is he now, you ask? He is a starting linebacker at least for the time being with teammate Mike Rose sidelined with a concussion. "I like playing linebacker the most of my positions here at Purdue," Reeves says. "I was an aggressive type of quarterback and I didn't try to shy away from any hits. I like to dish out a little bit of punishment instead of taking it all the time.
"I have no regrets of playing quarterback. I don't think about that anymore. I always tease (starting quarterback) Drew Brees about bringing my arm out of retirement to throw the Hail Mary. Just give me some smaller shoulder pads.
Reeves gained about 20 pounds over the offseason to prepare for playing linebacker, and it has paid dividends. Through eight games Reeves has 27 tackles, including five for loss to rank second on the team.
The most important thing to Reeves is winning, and he has noticed the difference in the team since the arrival of Tiller and his staff from Wyoming in 1997. "Our program has turned around 100 percent since he got here," Reeves says. "When he first got here he laid his ground rules and the guys who didn't want to abide by them were dismissed. I think that brought our team together." Reeves and his teammates have benefited with a record of 13-7 the past two seasons. "We know what it feels like to win now," Reeves says. "We find ways to win now. They have found the right positions for guys for us to win."
Reeves is looking forward to the Iowa game. Purdue is 4-4 on the season and finds this week as another must-win situation (for a bowl game) as the 3-5 Hawkeyes come into Ross-Ade Stadium. "We are looking for a little revenge for last year's game," Reeves says. Purdue lost that contest 35-17 in Iowa City. Kickoff for the Halloween tilt is set for 1 p.m., and you can expect Reeves and the Boilermakers to come out fired up to spook the Hawkeyes.
Story by Brian Remsberg, Purdue Athletic Public Relations Student Assistant