While holding several football records isn’t surprising for a NFL Hall of Famer, Andre Reed also holds record-level passion for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Having been involved with his hometown’s Club since he was seven years old, the former Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins wide receiver is currently an ambassador for the national organization, and launched his own namesake foundation that also strives to help underprivileged children reach their full potential.
“There are over 4,200 Boys and Girls Clubs in the country, and I’d love to visit them all,” says Reed. “Right now, I have a goal of visiting at least one in each state.”
Reed grew up in a home with two full-time working parents, who were not always there when he and his siblings arrived home from school. His local Club filled the void, while also teaching him teamwork and respect.
“We all look for a safe haven, a place in your life where there’s structure,” Reed says. “I was competitive by nature and pretty relentless when it came to getting something done, but I learned things there that I carry with me today, such as being a model citizen. A lot of kids tell me they want to be like me, so there’s an obligation I have to set a good example for them because someone set one for me. That’s my motto.”
Reed will be a special guest and speaker at the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County’s 5th Annual Youth of the Year Celebration on March 7.
NI.com: How did you first get involved with your hometown’s Boys & Girls Club?
Reed: I first got involved with Allentown’s Boys & Girls Club when I was seven or eight years old. My two brothers and sister, we’re all products of the BGC. Our parents wanted us to get involved with a positive organization that really believes in you and takes the time to talk with you, and that’s exactly what the BGC did for me.
How did the club impact you as you were growing up?
The BGC taught me that it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what kind of background you have – the clubs across the country always have the same mission of giving kids a chance to better themselves, both in their communities and in their lives, and of giving them hope that they can be anything they want to be.
As a professional football player, you hold many impressive records. What inspires you; where does that drive come from?
It comes from my dad. My dad’s a very competitive and driven person, and I grew up playing sports with him and watching him. He was a great motivator and said a lot of things that meant a lot, but some of his examples weren’t very traditional, and sometimes his ways of teaching were different than others’ – and that’s where the BGC came in.
Is this your first time visiting Naples, or have you connected with the Boys & Girls Club of Collier County before?
I hadn’t connected with them before, but I have been down there playing golf before. Ryan Sherry, who’s involved with the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida’s annual golf tournament, introduced me to people down there and mentioned the BGC of Collier County’s Youth of the Year Celebration. I had attended the national Youth of the Year Celebration in Washington D.C. last year and was glad to be a part of it and thought the Naples one would be a great opportunity.
What will you be speaking about at this year’s Youth of the Year Celebration?
I’ll be speaking about my relationship with the club and what it’s meant to me my whole life, and how these things that have happened to me can happen to anyone else. Kids need to know that their dreams can be fulfilled if they apply themselves, which is what the BGC helps them do.
Looking back on your football career, what was a memorable moment?
Being on a great team. You’re only as good as the people around you, and if you have talent, you need people around you to help that talent shine. Being around a bunch of guys who believed in each other and in me, that I could be great and get the job done, really meant a lot.
Any advice for kids being guided in the clubs right now?
It comes down to having confidence in yourself and having someone believe in you. We don’t have enough of people encouraging others to be what they want to be, and to be great at it. That’s where the Boys & Girls Club comes in – they’re committed to that mission since many of their staff were club members who had others believe in them, and now they want to give back. And that’s all you can ask for.