Former Dieruff High football coach Larry Lewis knows it's not original, but says the phrase "Against All Odds" fits Andre Reed's story perfectly.
Lewis, like so many of Reed's former coaches, teammates, family and friends, will be in Canton this weekend to see the Dieruff High and Kutztown University product receive football immortality when he is enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Reed's journey began in Allentown at the family homes on Hickory Street in center city and on S. Filmore Street near Roosevelt Park where Andre and his siblings Tyrone, Dion and Teshia could always be doing something.
But it took awhile for the Dieruff portion of Reed's journey to take flight.
In fact, Reed didn't even play for Dieruff as a sophomore.
Instead, he played for the Allentown A's 135-pound team in the fall of 1978 and led that team to the league championship.
He was a member of Dieruff's undefeated East Penn Conference title team in 1979, but only got in for one play at quarterback and was primarily used as the scout team QB at practices.
The Huskies graduated most of their key players from that championship squad, including Andre's brother Tyrone, and figured to be headed for a rebuilding season in 1980.
Thanks to the emergence of the speedy Reed at quarterback, the team won more games than expected.
"In all of my years of coaching, and I've been around while, I never saw a guy grow so much, so fast," Lewis said. "On a scale of one to 10, he went from a three to a 10. I've seen guys improve from their junior to senior year, but never to that degree. Each week you could just see his confidence growing."
Lewis, who had replaced Bruce Trotter on an interim basis in 1980 because Trotter took a leave of absence for family reasons, said Reed weighed only 130 pounds as a junior.
"And they had him listed as 6-foot-1 and 160 pounds as a senior, but there was no way he was that big," Lewis said.
One of the reasons Reed was small was because he was so young.
He played his senior season at Dieruff at the age of 16 and didn't turn 17 until Jan. 29 of his senior year in 1981.
"He was so small and always younger than the guys he was competing against," his mother Joyce Reed-Ebling said. "That's why his father [Calvin Reed] thought it was better for him to play little league rather than at Dieruff as a sophomore."
"We had Rich Sniscak at quarterback in 1979 and [Andre] wasn't going to beat him out for the job as a junior," Lewis said. "But he learned a lot on the scout team because that was quite a group he was going against every day. That helped him."
Lewis remembers it was a scrimmage where Reed gained confidence and stature in an instant.
"He was wide-eyed out there at first because he had never played," Lewis said. "But we knew from track that he was fast. I told him that when he got up there and there was nobody defensively over center 'You just goose the center and go.' The rest of the line doesn't even know what's happening. He just gets the ball from the center and goes."
"Well, he did that in the second series, and went 80 yards for a touchdown. I swear, he came back to the sideline 2 inches taller because he saw that he could do it."
When Lewis told the story during "Andre Reed Day" at Dieruff in April, Reed said he remembered the play.
"You never forget a touchdown," he said.
He would score many more of them after transitioning to receiver at Kutztown and, of course, in the NFL as a key member of the Buffalo Bills teams that went to four Super Bowls.
Offensive lineman Randy Hannis, who would go on to play at Rutgers, said Dieruff changed its back-oriented offense to accommodate Reed's ability.
"Andre was superfast, so we went to an offense where the quarterback ran a lot more than usual," Hannis said. "We did a lot of quarterback draws and wanted to get him in space and let him do his thing."
Hannis knew the Reed family growing up not far apart on Allentown's south side. His younger brother, Jeff, later roomed with Andre's brother, Dion, at Millersville University.
"I liked Andre and thought he was a great teammate," Hannis said. "Of course, you don't expect him to go on and do what he did. But when he did, everybody was so happy for him. A lot of us wish we could be there [at the induction] on Saturday night."
Trotter will be there, as will longtime Dieruff assistant coach Bill Wood, who worked extensively with Reed on his speed and conditioning.
Trotter said Reed's enshrinement will be forever meaningful for the Lehigh Valley and his native Allentown, but also for the place he came to love, Dieruff High School.
"It's great for everybody," Trotter said. "I tend to get very emotional about these things and I will be emotional on Saturday night, but Andre and his family were a part of the golden era of Dieruff football. We had a lot of success back then and it had to do with great families. … the Reeds, the Atiyehs, the Barnards. Good kids, all of them. A lot of them didn't have much, but worked hard for what they got."
Lewis said Reed's story is a lesson all can learn from.
"He proves that if you work hard enough, anything is possible," he said.Copyright © 2015, CT Now