Reese’s plan all along was to return for senior season

Florida linebacker David Reese II (33) celebrates a tackle last season. [Lauren Bacho/Staff Photographer]

Florida middle linebacker David Reese knew early, real early, that he would be returning for his senior season in 2019.

We’re talking August early, actually.

That’s when he sustained an ankle injury late in preseason camp and realized he would be missing the first few games of the 2018 season. And that’s when he made the decision to put his NFL aspirations on hold for another year.

Easy call, he said.

“When I was hurt, I knew I wanted to come back and see if I could put a whole perfect season together (in 2019),” Reese said. “I wanted to see if I could stay injury free and come into the next season and give it all I’ve got.”

After missing the first three games last season, including a home loss to Kentucky, Reese returned against Tennessee and had an immediate impact, leading the Gators in tackles (11) and recovering a fumble that led to a touchdown in UF’s 47-21 win.

He stayed healthy the rest of the way and had a typical Reese season, finishing second on the team in tackles with 77 and recording nine tackles for losses, four sacks and five pass break-ups.

Despite putting lots of good stuff on tape for the pro coaches and scouts to analyze, Reese stuck with his original decision to return for his senior season. He didn’t even bother to file paperwork with the NFL to get an idea where he might be selected if he declared for the draft.

“I didn’t do anything. I knew I was coming back,” he said.

Reese, the quarterback of the defense who is known for his high football IQ, didn’t need feedback from the NFL to know what he has to work on to improve his game and future draft status. He already knows.

“I understand what I’ve got to do. I didn’t have any questions about it,” he said. “I need to show people I can work in space. And just continue to lead my team, continue to show sideline-to-sideline things.

“That’s it. It’s just a thing where it’s time to get better.”

Working in space means making tackles in the open field and covering receivers out of the backfield. Reese has been focusing on that aspect of his game since last spring, and the work will continue under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and linebackers coach Christian Robinson.

“I’m going to put my head down and be ready to work for the upcoming season,” Reese said. “I’m going to grind and get better.”

Reese picked up Grantham’s defensive scheme quickly last spring and appeared comfortable in it throughout last season. He’s looking forward to how well the Gators perform in the defense in year two.

“We’re all going to be a lot more comfortable,” he said. “We won’t be starting from zero, we’ll be starting from a couple of steps up. Being in the same defense for a second straight year is going to do us great justice.”

Reese’s return is big for the defense, and the Gators in general. He’s not only emerged as a team leader, he’s the player on defense who makes all the calls and makes sure everyone is lined up correctly and ready to execute their assignment.

“In practice, he’ll call out our plays,” rising senior wide receiver Van Jefferson said. “He knows what we’re running. That lets you know he’s always in the film room trying to get better, watching what we do and what other teams do.

“He’s a great linebacker. When he announced (he was returning), it was big. He’s a pivotal piece.”

And a tough, physical piece, running back La’ Mical Perine said.

“He’s a hard-nosed football player. He’s a throwback,” Perine said. “He’s one of those old-school players like in the 1980s and ’09s. Tough, hard-nosed.

“If I was on the opposing team, the running back on the opposite side of the ball, I would not like to run into David Reese.”



  1. Read this article and realized most of these kids have no idea what “old school” and “hard nosed” really is. Picture instead Y.A. Title with his nose and forehead bleeding while kneeling at the middle of a mostly dirt NFL football field with his no facemask helmet laying next to him. Now that is “old school”.

  2. Swampy, an iconic photo to say the least. I also think of Rocky Blier, playing running back for the Steelers after coming back from Viet Nam with a badly wounded leg, or former Gator Jack Youngblood playing an entire NFL game with a broken leg. That’s “old school” at its best.

    • I have to agree with both of you guys, Dan. I guess it’s a matter of perspective, certain words taking on different meaning the more history one has under his belt….or, the more one is aware of history, at least. My generation of soldiers, for instance, rarely bitched about our combat tours in front of WWII or Korea vets — or if we did, it was at our own disgrace muy pronto. That said, it is still quite an honor for Reese to be called that by his peers, even tho it doesn’t conjure up the same images that we old timers associate with it. This kid does seem to have character in spades.

      • 6 – you are correct in using the key word “perspective.” It is amazing how so many variables can appear merely by one’s perspective. Talk about the military – I had a discussion with an Army doctor about my lower back. He told me that he had been in about 22 years and he stated that he sees someone like me wanting to stay in the Army with my injuries, yet young men and women wanting to get out and he couldn’t find any evidence through x-ray that they even had any injuries. Ulterior motives come into play as well. I am just proud of these young men that want to come back and become better at their skill set. Reese probably would have been selected in the first few rounds, but one more good season will surely make him a first rounder. Also we needed his leadership to run the D and help train the next MLB to take over next year. GO GATORS!!!

  3. It may not have an iconic picture or story but I’m you can’t find a better example of old school than emmitt Smith. He won his records by staying on the field, in the flow, injuries did not affect him. Few if any can say that. To this day he moves incredibly well … Maybe it’s just the dance floor, but he moves better than younger guys, never mind those broken in half by the game he played such as bo jackson. No disrespect to other incredible gator things, including kerwin bell against Auburn, but emmitt was something I doubt we will ever see again.

  4. Reese is a thinking man’s linebacker who anticipates the play before it happens and squashes it.
    That is the most dangerous LB of all for an opponent to play.
    The difference on the Gator D without Reese in the first three games and with him during the next 10 games was day and night. No comparison.
    With his relentless effort and continual improvement mindset, expect him to lead the D this year like Brandon Spikes did in our Championship year.

  5. I meant to add emmitt wasn’t just in the flow, he established the flow for everyone and kept it there too. Anyone that can do that, or even be in the conversation about it, like Mr Reese, I really admire. Even the Terminator in the movies couldn’t beat him!

  6. Danny Wuerffel showed that “old school” toughness when Bowden had the Noles playing to the echo of the whistle. Errict Rhett also showed “OST” in the Sugar Bowl against West Virginia, when one of their players shoved Rhett back on the ground when he was trying to get up after the tackle. Pissed him off and we beat the undefeated Mountaineers 41 – 7. That’s the Monty Grow hit on Darren Studstill.

  7. If Reese stays healthy and plays AT LEAST as well as 2018, I have him as a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick. Now if he improves dramatically, as is quite possible, he could easily move up to late 1st, early 2nd. A big returnee for the defense and remember, most of the secondary is back, including 2 starters who were on the IR all season.