Ask any student-athlete about what number they want to be in anything and, more than likely, the answer you get will be “first.”
Reggie Outten has a different figure in mind. He wants to be 73rd. Why 73, you may ask? Well, after hearing the recruitment pitch from Gray Collegiate Academy, that number stuck in the soon-to-be north Central High graduate’s mind.
“They’ve have had 72 recruits go to D-I schools so I’m figuring I can be 73 … the 73rd one,” Outten said with a smile before signing with Adam Holmes’ program in Columbia last Wednesday.
For the 6-foot, 240-pound Outten, playing another year of football at the charter school and not having it count against his college eligibility provides him with another chance to show recruiters what he can do against players of similar skill level. In this instance, Outten’s decision is a “win-win” deal for all parties involved.
“Now that the coaches at Western Carolina University and East Carolina have found out that Reggie is going to be at Gray, they know exactly where he is going to be next year,” said NC head coach Louis Clyburn. “That extra year is going to be very good for him and, for his football future.”
Outten’s introduction to the high school game came in the form of watching his older brother and former Camden High standout linebacker Chris Outten --- who would then play two years of football at Feather River Community College in California --- in action some eight years ago. Taking in the game and seeing the sights in the stands sold Reggie on football.
“When I saw my brother in high school and then, seeing what he did I said, ‘I want to do that, too,’” said the younger Outten brother. “I remember the first game I went to see my brother play at Camden High School and people had shirts with his name on it. I said that I wanted that … I wanted to do that, too.”
Reggie Outten’s football dreams started coming into focus at North Central, but only after his coaches questioned what they were seeing when the Knights opened practiced for the 2010 campaign.
“The biggest thing he brought to our program was his great personality and being a great kid,” Clyburn said before breaking into an Outten story.
“Reggie showed up for practice the first day as a freshman and it was 98 degrees and he was wearing a sweat suit. We looked at him and said, ‘Who is this kid and what is he doing here?’ He had no idea but he did not miss anything since that day.
“He is just very dedicated and set an example for the other kids. He always said, ‘Yes, sir. No, sir.’ He did everything that we asked him to do. We might say, ‘Reggie, we want you to play defensive end.’ And while it may not have been exactly what he wanted, but if it was best for the team, he gave it a ‘Yes, sir’ and went out and did it.”
This past season, Outten was second on the Knights with 83 tackles, including 25 solo stops, from playing at linebacker or, sometimes, along the front line. He had 7.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage with half a sack. He also carried the ball 16 times for 30 yards with a touchdown, being used mainly in short yardage situations.
At Gray, Outten will be asked to play middle linebacker. That, he said, is fine with him
“It takes a lot of pressure off me knowing that I don’t have to go on in offense and carry the ball,” he said of being a one-way player. “I can focus on defense and on the things I need to work on like hip movement, flexibility and all that stuff.”
Playing as the defensive captain in the Eagles’ 4-3 scheme, Outten said he will need to get quicker, stronger and work on play recognition and making sure his teammates are lined up properly.
“Now, Reggie can focus on that one spot; he is a true 4-3 middle linebacker,” Clyburn said. “He has a big body and he’s strong and he runs really well. I think that will benefit him especially now when he gets re-recruited the following year. That will pay huge dividends for him.”
Outten said his strengths at linebacker that he is good at man-to-man coverage and his power and endurance will also help him, even though he admitted that he wants to get stronger in order to attract the eye of Division I recruiters. He said he will lean on his brother to help him get past some of the rough spots in the college game.
“I expect to get the experience of playing college-level football,” he said. “The college game is faster so, I’m going to have to adapt to that.
“I watched my brother play for two years at the college football level so I’m expecting that with his experience, he can come and help me and trade off what he learned from his experiences.”
Clyburn said that while Outten has been penciled in at middle linebacker, his ability to play other spots on the field --- which he did at NCHS --- could help him out when colleges come calling.
“The biggest thing for schools is Reggie’s versatility and all the positions he can play,” said the fifth-year Knights’ boss. “We talked about that with all our guys who are going to the next level and pursuing college football.
“The neat thing about Reggie is that he’s a big guy who can play a lot of places. He’s being recruited heavily as a middle linebacker but he’s play at tight end, at running back, defensive end and we’ve put him down on defensive line.
“The attractive part for a college football coach is there are a lot of places that he could end up playing. And certainly a big athlete always helps on special teams.”
On the subject of “big” … Outten was asked what he had been told by Adam Holmes’ staff at Gray in terms of what they wanted him to do in the off-season. Outten said he had been instructed to cut down his weight and try to improve on his speed and quickness. You might think that would mean dieting. Think, again, Outten said.
“I’m not going to stop eating,” he said with a laugh. “I’m just going to work harder.”