Thomas Langley was welcoming students to his health and physical education class to start the new year in 2020 at Metrolina Christian Academy in Indian Trail, NC, when a particular newcomer caught his eye.
“I was like, ‘Who is that kid?’ ” Langley said. “He was probably 6-2, 220 (pounds) as a freshman. He just had these big shoulders and a wide frame. There was another coach in the room with me that knew him because he had coached him in AAU basketball. I was like, ‘Dude, he needs to be playing football.’ ”
The freshman in question was Peyton Reeder, who at that point in time had focused his attention on basketball. The 6-3 Reeder, whose nickname was “Diesel,” had been the leading scorer and rebounder in middle school at Socrates Academy and was focused on earning a varsity spot on Metrolina’s hoop squad.
But Langley’s persistence eventually enticed Reeder to the football field, where has further developed physically and emerged into a major college prospect on the offensive line. After weighing more than a dozen scholarship offers, Reeder decided to join East Carolina’s recruiting Class of 2024 on June 12. He is the second player to make a verbal commitment to the class, joining wide receiver Trenton Cloud from Greensboro, NC.
Reeder’s pledge came days after taking an official recruiting visit to ECU on June 8. He chose the Pirates after also considering a wide range of offers from programs such as Army, Brown, Bryant, Campbell, Charlotte, Elon, Furman, Georgia Southern, James Madison, Lehigh, Maine, Marshall, Maryland and Richmond.
East Carolina had offered Reeder a scholarship back on March 25 while he attended a Junior Day event in Greenville. The Pirates began initial contact with Reeder under former offensive line coach Steve Shankweiler, who retired as position coach in January. Reeder’s recruitment was then picked up by new offensive line coach Allen Mogridge.
By the time his official visit was scheduled, Reeder was almost convinced he wanted to become a Pirate.
“I think I was ready to commit there, but I really wanted to see how it (official visit) went,” Reeder said. “I wanted to see how well I fit in with the guys, and if I felt comfortable with the campus, things like that.”
Reeder was hosted by redshirt junior offensive lineman Hampton Ergle, and by the end of the weekend he was ready to pull the trigger on a commitment.
“I fit really well with everybody,” Reeder said. “We had a meeting on Saturday morning with (ECU head) Coach (Mike) Houston. He shot me the question immediately, asking me where I stood. I said, ‘I want to be a Pirate.’ He jumped up and gave me a big hug.”
The decision came less than three years since Langley convinced Reeder to give football a chance.
Reeder grew up in an athletic family. His father, Thomas Reeder, starred in baseball at nearby Sun Valley High School and was a first baseman at Western Carolina in the late 1990s. But it was basketball that Peyton Reeder began to excel at in middle school and on the AAU stage.
Langley met resistance, at first, when trying to coax Reeder onto the football field.
“He was very much against football that first day,” Langley said. “So, I contacted a bunch of Power Five coaches I had contacts with and sent them a picture of him beside me. After they responded, I showed him all their responses. He and his parents saw their responses and he was like, ‘OK, maybe I should try,’ because they (coaches) were all positive about him growing into a huge offensive line-type body frame.”
Because of Reeder’s inexperience, Langley opted to bring him along slowly on the Metrolina junior varsity as the 2020 season got underway. But that didn’t last long.
“It was funny because I thought, ‘Oh, a basketball guy,”’ Langley said. “Basketball guys usually come out, and if you’re playing on the line, they are a little soft and not quite as aggressive as you’d like guys to be. But we put him on JVs to start his freshman year and he dressed on Friday nights (with varsity). He was just wearing kids out and I was like, ‘Well, maybe those guys just aren’t very good.’
“Then we played him in a varsity game like three weeks later. At the time we (had a) left tackle who was committed to Navy who was about 6-5, 260. We moved him to left guard and we put Peyton at left tackle. We told that kid, ‘Hey listen, you’ve got to tell Peyton what to do because he has no clue.’ You’re talking like three weeks into football.
“Well, we were up like 40 points … so we felt like that was a good opportunity to get him some playing time. That was in the fourth quarter and he finished with three pancake blocks against a varsity team. It was his aggressive nature and relentless pursuit of drive blocking someone that was kind of like eye popping. After that it was like, this kid has a chance to be pretty good.”
By his junior campaign in 2022, Reeder had developed into an all-star performer. He earned first-team all-state honors from the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association and was named to the Charlotte Observer’s all-area squad.
The Pirates have recruited Reeder to play offensive tackle with the idea he could move inside to guard at some point.
“I think I’m a very solid pass blocker,” Reeder said. “I’m very powerful on first punch.
“I’ve talked to coach Mogridge and I’ve talked to coach Houston. I’m really looking to work on my conditioning and everything like that. They say the biggest jump from high school to college is your conditioning, so I’m looking forward to working on that. I’m going to keep training and keep working. This decision is not going to make me stop. I’m going to make myself the best player I can be and have the biggest senior year I can have.”
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