Editor's Note: The following article on Redskins safety Reed Doughty first appeared in The Johnstown Breeze, a weekly newspaper in Colorado.
Introduced as "a hometown hero," Reed Doughty applauded everyone else as they gave him a standing ovation during a ceremony [on Feb. 12] when his Roosevelt High School football jersey was retired.
Doughty wore number 24 when he played for the Rough Riders. Now, his uniform number is 37 as a member of the Washington Redskins.
Both jerseys were framed together and brought before an overflow audience during halftime of Tuesday night's basketball game at RHS.
Once the clapping concluded, Doughty remarked, "That was very humbling. It's so awesome to see every one of you."
Last Saturday night, people lined up outside Johnstown Java & Jams (a.k.a. 3Js) for a chance to see Doughty, visit with him, and get his autograph during a fund-raiser for the nonprofit coffee house.
3Js was where years ago Doughty met his wife, Katie, and they wanted to give something back. About $4,500 was raised through autograph signings, a silent auction, and donations.
"It's a real blessing that he would come back to his hometown and support the youth in the community and what we do at 3Js," said Connie Wills, whose husband Dana Wills is 3Js' executive director.
"For him to have the signing, and to see how many people came out to support Reed," Dana Wills said, "that was a huge blessing."
Doughty graduated in 2001 from Roosevelt, where he was a three-sport letter winner and academic standout. Between 2002-05, he was a four-year starting safety at the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned All-America status as a student-athlete.
In April 2006, he was taken by the Redskins in the sixth round of the National Football League draft.
This past season, which ended with Washington making the playoffs, Doughty became a starter--filling in for Sean Taylor, who had been shot in an off-the-field incident.
Taylor passed away, and Doughty was turned to--not only for his on-the-field ability but also his leadership and spirituality.
"He's one of those athletes and persons who is one of a kind," said RHS Athletic Director Linda Klipp. "I always believed he would do well, and I believe he believed it, too. He has determination and is smart. I'm so proud of him. He not only excelled at pro football but is also a wonderful role model.
"The community is proud of his accomplishments, but more than that, the person he is."
Others attest to that, including Connie Wills, who said, "He really has a heart for people in the community. I watched him throughout the evening (on Feb. 9 at 3Js), and he took time to talk with people. He's just so humble. He still sees himself as Reed.
"Some people might let it go to their head, but not with him. He went to the schools here and tells kids they can dream, and with hard work and a belief in God, they can do anything."
Remarking on his jersey being retired, Doughty said, "When Coach (Noland) Eastin told me he was going to do it, I was humbled and a little embarrassed. But I think it's a cool thing that they're doing, just on the basis that kids here at Roosevelt can see that somebody here in little ol' Johnstown-Milliken did something--not just pro football, something outside northern Colorado.
"They can dream that they can do something big, too."
Doughty can be considered a bit famous, even though he said, "I honestly don't feel a whole lot different."
His wife, Katie, said, "Our lives really don't feel that different. There are certain things, obviously, that not the average person gets to participate in. But really, our lives are pretty much the same.
"We're just grateful that Reed has a job where I can stay home right now and be with (their son) Micah."
While he might not feel like one, "He is a celebrity," said Jessica Geisenhoff, a Milliken Middle School student who attended the 3Js fund-raiser with some of her friends. "He's the first one from here going into a pro sport."
"A lot of kids respect him," said Sami Albrecht. "It's neat to see how their family turned out."
Besides, said Lauren Cooper, "he is attractive."
But it isn't just young people who admire Doughty. It's people who Doughty looked up to when he was growing up here.
"I've known him since he was 13," said Bob Weber, pastor of Grace Community Church. "He's definitely the real deal. If you want someone with character to introduce to your kid, it's Reed."
People remarked it was "amazing" and "surreal" to see someone they knew as a kid advance through life to become a professional athlete and someone with character to which one can aspire.
Looking at Doughty signing autographs last Saturday, a line of people waiting with smiles on their faces for their turn, Clyde Briggs remarked, "It is kind of weird (to see him like that), but he's the same kid you knew."
Briggs, formerly the editor and publisher of The Johnstown Breeze, said, "The Breeze published his first football pictures. Now, all those journalists chase him.
"I hope he plays for a long time, because he's such an inspiration to so many people."
Mona Stotyn of Johnstown attended with her grandson. While poring over the silent auction items, she remembered Reed as a boy. Holding her hand, palm side down about hip high, she said, "I knew him when he was about this tall.
"I'm so proud of him and proud of the fact that he's doing so much for his team. I'm glad to know he could be there (during the Sean Taylor incident). There was a reason to be a Redskin, absolutely. The Lord sent him where he needed to be at the time."
Laurie Forte of Johnstown said Doughty being a Redskin and having his RHS football number retired "is the neatest thing to hit town in a long time. You couldn't ask for a better ambassador for the NFL."
Doughty now enters his second offseason, but soon will begin preparations for his third season as a professional football player.
"Hopefully, (the Redskins) will give me another chance to start next year," Doughty said. "But you guys know, they'll bring somebody in to compete with me, or they'll give somebody else the spot, and I'll be competing with them.
"But it gave me the confidence to know that I can step in on the NFL level at the highest level of the playoffs against the best teams and compete.
"Obviously, Sean Taylor's death was really tough. There was a lot of pressure, and if I honestly didn't have Christ for me, to have that control and to pray and say, 'Hey, I'm gonna do my best tonight,' and I'm going to try and glorify Him. I know I did my best, and that's all I can do."