Reed Doughty: Making the Big Jump
By Kirk Noonan
Jan. 27, 2013
Soon after Reed Doughty finished his senior season at the University of Northern Colorado, an NCAA Division I FCS school in Greeley, he began dreaming and preparing for the 2006 NFL draft. Like all pro prospects, his athletic ability and play on the field had caught the attention of NFL scouts, who quickly went to work sizing up the safety. They measured, tested, questioned and scrutinized everything about him — again and again. Their findings on Doughty were mixed.
Doughty shows great balance between discipline and aggressiveness on the football field, almost always making what, in hindsight, would be the best decisions.
Doughty lacks ideal size and athleticism for a safety. Doughty had a very ordinary combine and individual workout numbers. Doughty didn’t play against any top teams in college. … Doughty has a huge jump to make.
Despite the scouts’ thorough research, they overlooked two things about Doughty: his faith and his upbringing. This is ironic because both have played a major part in making Doughty a mainstay with the Washington Redskins and have emboldened his faith.
Living it out
It’s a sweaty July evening just outside Washington, D.C., and Doughty is sitting with friends in a small diner. As his buddies eat burgers and French toast he tells stories — at their prompting — about training camp, playing in the NFL, growing up in a small town in Colorado, his eldest son’s early struggles, and being hearing impaired.
What he doesn’t tell his friends that night is that he is known for having a very high football IQ, that he maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout college, and that he was a finalist for college football’s equivalent of the academic Heisman Trophy.
“Some of my coaches didn’t think I was intelligent when I first came into the league,” he admits. “None of them knew I was hearing impaired because I never wore hearing aids or talked about it. When they yelled at me on the field and I kept doing the same things wrong, they drew some conclusions about me.”
After Doughty clued in his coaches and teammates to his degenerative hearing loss, they made some adjustments. During meetings coaches made sure they faced Doughty so he could read their lips. On the field Doughty and his teammates used hand signals to make sure coverage stayed intact. Off the field, Doughty started wearing hearing aids.
“I can’t wear them under my helmet while playing, but I try to wear them everywhere else,” he says. “By doing so, I hope to eliminate some of the stigma, especially for kids who have to wear them.”
Thinking about others comes naturally for Doughty. Growing up in tiny Johnstown, Colo., he saw his parents and older brothers living out faith in Jesus in such a way that he couldn’t help but be drawn to it.
“I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was 6 years old,” says Doughty, 30, who attends Timberline Church (Assemblies of God) in Fort Collins, Colo. “I’ve been unbelievably blessed to have great Christian parents and wonderful role models in my older brothers.”
Those examples have given Doughty staying power in the NFL — seven seasons to be exact. But more importantly, he says, those examples have given him an unshakable faith in God.
In 2006, Reed and his wife, Katie, had their first child, Micah. He was born with end-stage renal disease. Basically, Micah’s kidneys did not work well enough for him to live without dialysis or a transplant.
“Micah’s problems definitely strengthened our faith, but they also took a toll on us,” admits Doughty. “It was during that time I realized I needed the strength of God, my wife and my family even more than before.”
When Micah finally went home from the hospital, he endured months of dialysis until doctors were able to transplant one of Katie’s kidneys into her son’s tiny body. It was a perfect match and one that saved Micah’s life.
Soon after, Doughty became a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation. He explains there are 26 million Americans who have chronic kidney disease and 90,000 who are waiting for a kidney transplant.
“Because of Micah I realized I needed to use whatever clout I had to be a part of something that was already established and helping others,” says Doughty. “Micah’s disease wasn’t preventable but for many people it is, and I want to get that word out.”
Today, Micah is a thriving 6-year-old. He goes to school, swims and plays with his two younger brothers. “He’s leading a very normal life and is an absolute blessing to us,” says Doughty.
In 2011, Doughty started 11 of 16 games. He had 88 tackles, 58 of which were solo, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. And he followed that with another solid season in 2012. Not bad for a guy who needed to make a huge jump.
KIRK NOONAN, a former managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel, is vice president of communications for Convoy of Hope in Springfield, Mo.
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