Box 31; Clemson, SC 29633 with your return address.
Abe Reed was working in the clubhouse for a Double-A minor league baseball team in his hometown of El Paso, Texas when he decided to attend the Athletic Equipment Managers Association national convention in Phoenix, Ariz., during the summer of 1998.
One night at the convention, he tracked down a mutual acquaintance of his former boss at the University of Houston, James Frazier. The connection was a man by the name of Alphonso Smith, who had recently taken the position as Clemson’s director of equipment. Smith was in desperate need of a graduate assistant, and Frazier had recommended Reed for the position.
“‘Phonz’ told me, ‘If Frazier says you’re the guy for me, I’ll take his word for it’,” recalled Reed. “So in July 1998, I drove from El Paso to Clemson. Now I’m married with two kids and this is the start of year 19 for me. I’ve been here ever since.”
Reed began his fourth season as Clemson’s director of football equipment in August. He has seen a complete transformation across the landscape of Clemson football, which was in the midst of a rough stretch at the beginning of his tenure.
A 1997 Houston graduate with a degree in biology, Reed’s first season in Tigertown saw Clemson compile a 3-8 record. Fifteen years later, in his first year in charge of the team’s equipment needs, the Tigers beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl. By year three, Clemson was a finalist in the College Football Playoff.
After years as Smith’s top assistant, Reed is now the one managing the budget, placing Nike orders and sitting in on staff meetings. He manages a staff of one full-time assistant, one graduate assistant and a host of undergraduate workers. Working with young people is what brings him the most joy in his position.
“From the players on the team to the kids that work for me, they keep me going. People don’t necessarily know the ins and outs to the job, but that’s how we like it. If no one knows my name, that’s a good thing.”
Folks may not know Reed’s name, but his voice should be familiar to many. For years, he has “snapped” the football during Clemson’s Paw drill, a physical contact exercise held typically during August camp.
As players line up to go against one another, Reed removes the ball from the line of scrimmage with the help of an extension handle. Then he shouts “GO” at the top of his lungs, followed by players engaging with one another. It became household television when the Tigers’ video department began producing practice reports, where the Paw drill was a staple.
“That came about under coach (Tommy) Bowden,” he laughed. “I never stopped doing it, and now it’s my deal, I guess. My friends all make fun of me because I have a high-pitched voice on the videos.”
Reed is preparing his staff to make the move into the new operations complex in the winter. It won’t be his first move. His first several years in Clemson, the equipment staff was located in the basement of Jervey Athletic Center.
“To house all our sports stuff out of one shop, I don’t know how we ever did it. Now, if a guy forgets a knee brace or a glove, we’ll be able to run inside and get it rather than hop on a golf cart to drive across the street.”
Reed has come a long way from making 1,600 mile trips across the country, and he is grateful to Clemson football for that.