NFL Network to debut "Andre Reed: A Football Life" on Thursday as a prelude to his big weekend

Hall of Famer's Reed's journey from Allentown to Canton is documented.

It is one of the most remarkable stories in Lehigh Valley sports history.

It's the story of a skinny kid who grew up in some of Allentown's toughest neighborhoods, attended an often overlooked Dieruff High School and an even more overlooked Kutztown University and still somehow worked his way into becoming one of the best receivers to play in the NFL.

Andre Reed's journey from Allentown to Canton has been documented by the usually brilliant "A Football Life" series on the NFL Network.

Just last year, Matt Millen's story was told on the network, providing an insightful look at the career of the former Whitehall and Penn State standout.

Reed's story debuts at 10 p.m. Thursday and will re-air again on the weekend as Reed's big induction moment looms Saturday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Because Joyce Reed-Ebling, Andre's mother, and other members of the family will be en route to Canton, they may not see it when it first airs. You can bet they will see it eventually.

"I am supposed to be sent an advanced copy of it, but it hasn't arrived yet," Reed-Ebling said on Tuesday afternoon. "They spent a lot of time at my house [in North Whitehall Township] and did several hours' worth of interviews with the family and Andre. They did it back in June when Andre was home after speaking at a banquet.

"We fed the crew. They had the cameras rolling while we were eating out on my deck, and then the kids were talking among themselves."

Reed-Ebling said: "The kids had a good time talking about things growing up."

Some footage was also taken from the Reeds' former residence on South Filmore Street in Allentown.

Larry Lewis, who was Andre's head coach at Dieruff High School during the 1980 football season when Reed played quarterback, was interviewed.

Others at Dieruff were also interviewed, Reed-Ebling said, and possibly some at Kutztown University as well, although Andre's Golden Bears coaches, George Baldwin and Al Leonzi, are deceased.

Reed-Ebling said part of her interview got into topics that may or may not be included in the documentary, including her encounter with racism as a young white woman who married an African-American while a teenager.

"Back then, it wasn't accepted as it is today and people would give us looks and it was difficult at times for me and Calvin and our kids," Reed-Ebling said. "My own father had a problem with it."

There were other issues as well, including Calvin's battle with alcoholism; an addiction that led to abusive behavior.

But Calvin Reed's story has a happy ending because he eventually conquered his demons and was at the end of his life "the father we always wanted him to be," according to Tyrone Reed, the oldest of the four Reed children.

Andre Reed has said he will include his father and the impact he had on his life during his acceptance speech Saturday night, which he promised will be quite emotional.

However, whether any of Calvin's story is included in the documentary isn't known. Also not known is whether Andre's children, Auburn and Andre, who live in California, will get air time. Auburn is 20, Andre 18.

Of course, the bulk of the documentary will deal with Reed's extraordinary career with the Buffalo Bills and his impact on a team that won four consecutive AFC titles and made four straight Super Bowl appearances.

Reed-Ebling recently saw some of the career highlights that will be shown in Canton this weekend, if not on the "A Football Life" documentary, and was amazed by what she saw.

"I was there in Buffalo for many of his games and watched a lot on TV, but even I forgot about some of the plays he made," Reed-Ebling said. "After seeing the highlights, I got goose bumps. I am in awe of him and what kind of player he was and I know that Calvin was extremely proud of him, too, and would be so happy this weekend."

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