The pop and thud of 300-pound athletes colliding with one another can be heard from the seats of spectators and by television viewers. With each passing play, it becomes a war of attrition to see who can sustain dominance over their opponent, week-by-week for nearly six months. This is the life of a lineman in the National Football League (NFL).
For Indianapolis Colts guard, Chris Reed, 2021 marks his sixth year in the NFL, and his first with the Colts. The Colts signed Reed in the offseason as a backup role to one of the league’s best offensive linemen, Quenton Nelson. However, as the season progressed and injuries occurred, Reed seized an opportunity to fill in wherever he is needed. His efforts have not gone unnoticed.
At the conclusion of Week 6 in mid-October, Reed played 138 pass-block snaps. Out of those snaps, Reed allowed zero sacks, three hits, five hurries, eight pressures and took zero penalties — the best numbers of fellow linemen, Ryan Kelly, Eric Fisher and Mark Glowinski.
His breakthrough season raised questions. Why has he not received more attention from the media? Especially in the Midwest where he has strong ties to Nebraska.
UNLimited Sports Reporter, Peter Krenzer, spoke with Reed on November 9 following a Thursday Night Football victory over the New York Jets about his path from Nebraska to the NFL, his NFL future, performances this season and playing behind one of the best guards in football.
Things are trending up, and it may not be surprising for Chris Reed to be a household name in the coming years.
Q: What has your sports journey looked like to this point?
A: I was always an active kid and then I moved to Spirit Lake, Iowa. It’s a small community where we have a family cabin, so when we moved up there, I started doing a lot more sports because the schools were pretty small. You were able to do six sports just because they don’t overlap too badly. Then, when I moved to Omaha for my last two years of high school, I had to go down to two sports: track and field and football. I love track and field just as much as I love football, and when I went to a bigger school, I wasn’t really well known or anything, so I wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school. I had been successful in track and field, so I was actually being looked at for that more than football. I went on a couple of visits to UNL, got to go to some of the games, and track and field was trying to get me to walk on as well. Then Doane University in Crete, Nebraska, actually had come in with a track and field scholarship, so I was going to do that and then walk on the football team. I told my family I was going to do it. Then Minnesota State came down late because they had been in playoffs in football, and I met the offensive line coach and they really liked me. I was very fortunate to almost get a full ride in D-two, which is hard to do. I went up and redshirted my freshman year in football but didn’t in track. I knew I wanted to go to a school that let me do both. I was very successful with my track and field career in college, but football was ‘You had to either go for it or don’t.
So around my sophomore or junior year is when I realized that I was getting looked at minorly by NFL scouts. My senior year, I had a lot of scouts out visiting and talking with me. I had to do the Wonderlic test (for cognitive ability and problem-solving aptitude) and all that. I drove from Mankato up to Minneapolis every day for about two months and trained for my pro day. Jacksonville had signed me right away right after the draft. I was an undrafted free agent. I was on the practice squad my first year, which I kind of knew was going to happen. I had played tackle in college and moving to guard took a little longer as a transition, and so they had me on the practice squad there for the entire year. Then I made the team the next two years but didn’t play my greatest in the fourth year and got cut. I got put on the practice squad and then moved back to the active roster, so I got my fourth year there. Then in unrestricted free agency, I went to the Dolphins. My O-line coach from the Jaguars had moved and got a job there in Miami, so I followed him. The unfortunate thing was Miami fired him halfway through the camp, and it just didn’t turn out to be the year I’d wanted, and then I was cut in December and claimed off of waivers by Carolina. I was there for the end of that year, and the next year, I was with a whole new coaching staff and I got the starting job, which was really awesome and a great experience. One of my goals in the NFL was to earn a starting job, so that was one of the most fun years of my career. Obviously, things didn’t work out in free agency and I ended up with the Colts, and I’m really glad I did. It has been awesome so far. I’m definitely getting better and expanding my playing career doing a couple of different positions and just learning a lot about football.
Q: Did you end up getting any scholarship offers from Nebraska given your last few years of high school football were played in Omaha?
A: I only had the two: Minnesota State and Doane. I went into camp down there [Nebraska] and they offered a different guy the scholarship. I did well but they said I wasn’t aggressive enough, so I took that personally. I wouldn’t have gone too far from home anyway, so Mankato was the best choice, because between Doane and Minnesota State, there’s just a better competition. If I wanted to do big things in sports, the opportunity for D-two is way better.
Q: What are some similarities and differences you have noticed between the teams you have played for in the NFL?
A: I think a lot of O-line rooms are very similar. All guys that play in the NFL all have some characteristics in common. Any room you go, it’s just usually a close-knit group no matter who’s in there. It’s a really cool thing that I’ve noticed between each team I’ve been on, just that camaraderie. Some teams have it, some teams don’t. Difference-wise, gaining football knowledge is probably one of the biggest things I see every year that’s different. Everyone’s coaching is different so you have diversity in that aspect.
Q: What are some of the most important things you have learned so far in the NFL?
A: I think track and field, just being a dual-athlete in college, has helped the physical aspect of it. I have to train year-round with weight lifting. Physically, I think that helps me set that base to be an explosive player and be strong, because that’s one of my best attributes. Then just gaining knowledge and learning and being coachable. I’d say NFL players who are on the bubble or undrafted free agents, the ones that stick around, I think are extremely coachable and like to take in everything. Not everything will work for them, but they’ll figure out what they can use and different tools and techniques that they can pick up and different ways of looking at something. I think every year just adding to that is key to me being successful.
Q: What have you enjoyed about Indianapolis to this point?
A: I really like the room. The room is really cool. You have future Hall of Famers in there. You have a current Hall of Famer in there in Kevin Mawae, who played in the NFL for 16 years and was the NFLPA president, so it’s cool to hear from another guy on not just the football aspect but the business side of it, too. It’s a really cool culture. It’s different. This culture is completely different from the other three teams I’ve been on. The other three teams have always tried to get to where these guys are, and to be a part of that is really cool. Obviously being around really great players, you get to see how they work and I think that you can incorporate. One of the things I’m learning this year is how to even be a better pro by guys like Quenton Nelson. I’m playing behind one of the best guards in football and not only does he work hard, but it’s really cool to talk to him about football and he asks my ideas. I ask his ideas and how should I look at this and so on and so forth. That whole aspect of it is probably my favorite.
Q: What has it been like to take advantage of the opportunities presented to you this season?
A: I’m very fortunate to get that opportunity because sometimes, if there’s a starter there, they will start the guy and that’s that. I wanted to take advantage of it obviously, and it’s a battle and it’s kind of a transition. I played left guard for most of my career, so switching over to the right side a little bit and rotating in there is like baby steps. My focus is just to get better every week. As long as I’m improving every week, I’m doing all right. It’s like a mountain, it goes up and down, so we’ll see, but I’m feeling good that I get the opportunity.
Q: Could you see yourself staying in Indianapolis beyond your current one-year contract?
A: I hope so. I think this is definitely a place I’d want to finish out my career. I don’t know exactly how that looks. I’m really hoping that this year transitions into a longer contract than a one-year and I can come back. That would be amazing. But I thought that was last year, too. It’s the NFL so anything can happen.
Q: What are some life lessons you have learned through sports that you think you can take beyond your busy athletic years?
A: I’ve learned so many different things about life. Some of the more traditional sayings, you hear them but until you experience things and go through stuff, they don’t really mean anything, like ‘controlling what you can control.’ I know a lot of people said that but it means a little more when you’ve gone through a lot of crap. It’s a stressful job and so on and so forth, but if you can just control what you can control, it’s a really good life lesson, too, not just in football, but in life. Also being a new father. The patience of it has really affected me this year. Having that family and playing for them hits a little deeper when you have a child. It’s a very unique experience and I’m glad I am playing still while being a father.