Former University of Toledo wide receiver Bernard Reedy latched on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he continues to work a job on the side. LOREN ELLIOTT
Life is good for Bernard Reedy these days.
The former University of Toledo receiver finished last year on the active roster of his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he has no intentions of relinquishing his spot this fall.
On a 1-to-10 grade, Reedy’s enthusiasm level heading into training camp next month is roughly the same as his jersey number.
“I can’t get any sleep,” No. 15 said by phone last week. “I can’t stop smiling.”
Better yet, he will have a couple thousand buddies smiling with him.
In addition to his job running routes in the NFL, the 25-year-old Reedy spends his offseasons driving them for Care Ride — a Tampa-area ride-hailing company similar to Uber but for residents with disabilities.
Some days this spring, Reedy left a locker room filled with millionaires in the afternoon, then clocked in at his $11-an-hour side gig. He drives whenever his crammed football schedule allows.
Care Ride provides wheelchair and ambulatory transport to about 1,200 clients per day, and after two years behind the wheel, the easygoing Reedy knows many of them.
They often become friends, talking about cars and politics and family but rarely football. When a regular passes away, as did two men he shuttled to dialysis appointments, he leaves a card at their home.
A job that began as a way to pay the bills when Reedy was out of football in 2015 has become something more, both driver and passenger enriching the other.
“These people still see the better in life, even though they’re in their last years,” Reedy said. “Just to be around that every day, to be able to bond with them, that’s what I’ve enjoyed.”
Why does he still do it?
“This is where I started when I didn’t have a job,” he said. “Now that I’ve got one, why would I stop? ... As somebody who can help others, helping those who can’t is a reward in itself.”
That surprises few back in Toledo, where Reedy was a well-liked team leader. Despite his 5-foot-8 frame, the blistering former two-star prospect from St. Petersburg, Fla., willed himself into one of the most prolific pass catchers in the country. He graduated in 2014 with a degree in criminal justice.
“He’s the representation of two great parents who has done it the right way his entire career,” said Rockets coach Jason Candle, who oversaw the receivers during Reedy’s time at UT. “He’s one of the hardest-working guys who has come through our program in my time here, somebody who’s always given more of himself than what he’s taken.”
His time with Care Ride began during the lowest hour of his career.
Reedy signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and spent his rookie season on the Falcons’ practice squad, but he was cut the next year. With nobody else calling, he moved back into his childhood home in St. Petersburg.
“I needed to go out and start making some money, so I could continue to live,” he said.
The first offer came from Vince Cocks, a manager at Care Ride. He used to attend Reedy’s games at Lakewood High — his wife’s alma mater — and had known him since he was a prep junior.
Reedy was on board. He learned CPR and how to operate the wheelchair lift on the company vans, then went to work. The job not only fulfilled him, but it helped keep his mind off football. The fall of 2015, he did not watch or listen to a single snap of an NFL game.
Cocks called Reedy a model employee and said he soon began receiving calls on his new driver. “People love him,” Cocks said. “He’s polite, and he’s very good at this. One lady is nuts over him. We’re happy to have him.”
This is not to suggest Reedy’s football dream ever faded. He continued to work out, even dripping some on-the-job sweat. Sometimes, as he waited for his phone to buzz with the next pick-up, he squeezed in sprints outside the van.
It paid off last season with the chance of his dreams.
In a roiling but rewarding year, Reedy signed with the Bucs, got cut in training camp after tearing his meniscus, and rejoined Tampa Bay in December. He spent the last two games on the active 53-man roster and has a good shot to make the team this year, which would earn him a salary of $465,000.
Reedy’s football future remains as big as his smile.
But get this: No matter how many zeroes may someday adorn his checks, he will remember the rides along the way.
He said he plans to work at Care Ride for the duration of his career and beyond, logging time whenever he has a few hours to spare during the offseason.
The only time blocked off entirely for football is the regular season.
His bosses and passengers understand. They’re all rooting for him.
We all are.