The Cincinnati Bengals made an unusual move for themselves adding a big money player in free agency in defensive tackle D.J. Reader. In doing so, they let a player they drafted over him walk in Andrew Billings, however, that is not the only interesting factoid about the 25-year-old Reader.
Here are five other cool things to know about the Bengals awesome new defensive tackle.
1. He played baseball in college as well
A lot of football players were star athletes in other sports through high school, but not many continue playing sports other than football in college. That is not the case for Reader who continued to play baseball all throughout college. He was a good player as well being a pitcher that could hit over 90 miles per hour!
2. He didn’t have to look very hard for a great baseball coach
Imagine that absolute heat coming towards you from a 300+ pound human being. It makes sense that Reader was able to have success with baseball even through college with the coaching he received. His mother played softball at NC A&T in the 80’s, so that’s where those genes and technique originated from. His decision to pursue football instead has paid off though, quite literally.
3. He looked up to Vince Wilfork growing up
For a long time, Wilfork was the premiere nose tackle in the NFL. While he never offered much in the pass rush department, there were few players who were as consistently disruptive in the run game. When he was drafted by the Texans, Reader actually got to play with Wilfork even if it wasn’t for long. If Reader can continue his career trajectory he could be an even better player than Wilfork. In 2019 he offered similar play against the run, but also made a solid impact against the pass as well.
4. He was the Texans’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee
The Bengals—despite national narratives saying otherwise—love making good character additions to the team and love it when players make positive impacts off the field. Many of their own players run charities or have run charity benefits or events in the past. Reader was likely extra intriguing to the Bengals with him being nominated for the highest honor for character you could receive. Reader does great work with the National Kidney Foundation; an organization close to his heart considering his father died of kidney failure.
5. Bengals defensive line coach Nick Eason is familiar with him
After his playing career in the NFL was over Eason made frequent trips back to his alma mater Clemson to talk to the football team. This was when Reader and Eason first met and they have reportedly stayed in touch at least a bit since then. His connections at Clemson also probably helped Eason completely reassure the Bengals about his work ethic and off field behavior.