In the first week of the football season, Catholic Memorial and Lynn Classical were locked in a tie game with less than a minute to go, and the Knights had the ball on their own 33-yard line. It was a desperate situation, and in those moments, the CM coaches know that if they look in Armani Reeves’ direction, something good is bound to happen.
“It was a ‘301-Go,’ and I knew A.J. [Doyle] was going to throw me the ball because coach [Alex Campea] said, ‘Just look for Armani,’” said Reeves. “I saw the corner, he was backing up really fast, so I didn’t attempt to do the one, I just ran as fast as I could.”
The ball was slightly overthrown, so when Reeves caught the ball with his fingertips he nearly fell over. Somehow, he managed to keep his feet and get in the end zone, giving the Knights a 21-14 win.
It was an inspirational play, but, at least for Reeves, not because it was such a difficult and spectacular catch and run.
“I was playing for my grandfather [Andrew Reeves] because he passed away [before the season],” Reeves said. “So I just took everything I got in me and went and got the ball. From there, I just burst into the end zone and I was so excited.”
The touchdown served as an emotional high after a devastating number of weeks leading up to the season for Reeves, who moved to Easton in the fourth grade from Leeds, Alabama.
A week before his grandfather's funeral, Reeves attended that of his best friend, Brendan Wolfe, who would have entered his senior year at Oliver Ames this year. Coupled with the loss of his friend who died suddenly, Reeves was also grieving the loss of his grandfather. Those tragedies combined, it only gave the junior added motivation headed into the season.
“It was right before football, it was really tough,” Reeeves said. “I just felt like I had to dedicate this season to them to make them happy, and God also. So I had a lot of encouragement and a lot of things to play for.
“(Scoring the touchdown felt) really good,” he added. “I always wanted to make people in my life happy. And my grandfather, he always looked at me as one of his own sons. And the talent that he thought I had and knew I could go far and just to know he’s always going to watch down over me and he’ll be happy no matter what I do. Just knowing that and knowing that he saw that play, it meant a lot to me for both of them.”
Reeves speaks in a quiet, humble manner that belies his explosive nature on the football field. Possessing a laser-timed 4.4-second forty-yard dash, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior already has verbal offers from UConn, Wake Forest, Penn State, UNC and Boston College. He is also receiving interest from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Stanford, Northwestern and Virginia.
“There’s no question that he’s got tremendous speed, but he’s as tough as any kid we’ve had,” Campea said. “He’ll bounce off of people, keep his legs going and continue to move upfield. His speed is lightning but the reality is he’s just as tough. He also really competes.
“He’s a good player but he’s willing to work at it day in and day out to get better,” he added. “Some talented players rest on their laurels, but he works hard every day. He’s just one of those kids, he competes. When your best players are also your hardest workers, it’s a great thing to see, and Armani certainly falls into that category. He’s a great teammate and he never gives up. He’s a pleasure to coach because of his competitiveness. He works his tail off all the time.”
On top of that, Reeves has good genes. Former NBA great and current TNT analyst Charles Barkley is his cousin.
“When he used to play the Celtics, he always used to come visit my aunt (Vanessa), because they were really good friends,” Reeves said. “He used to always come and visit and we actually took pictures with him and stuff like that. So it was pretty cool. I haven’t met him in a while. He knows about me because I play football and my mom talks to him all the time. We keep our distances because he’s so famous. … I don’t look at him as, ‘Oh, he’s Charles Barkley. I just look at him as Charles.’”
On the field, Reeves does a little bit of everything for the Knights, a result of his unparalleled athleticism. CM has deployed Reeves at wide receiver and running back on offense. He's even run a little Wildcat scheme, in addition to his duties in the return game and as the Knight's top corner on defense. Reeves has racked up 13 touchdowns so far this season.
“They have me do a lot of things and I don’t get off the field," he said. “It’s pretty fun. You’ve got to keep on working hard and play all those positions 100 percent.”
With his recruitment already starting to heat up, Reeves has his priorities lined up about a possible destination.
“I always tell people the main thing is always academics. I want to go to a school that’s really good academically. If football doesn’t seem to work out, I can have a good academic plan to back me up,” he said. “And also coaching staff and the campus, those two things are important to me, because if you have coaches that you don’t like, you won’t like playing for them. And when I’m not doing football, I want a chance to have a nice campus and have good people to be around.”
Of course, with most of his family still living in the heart of SEC country, Reeves hears a lot of opinions on where he should go – particularly Auburn and Alabama.
“It’s kind of in-between. Some of them say, ‘Be a Tiger,’ or ‘Crimson Tide.’ But most of them say, no matter what, don’t go to Tennessee,” he said with a laugh. “They always say that. And when I tell them I get mail from Tennessee, they’re like, ‘No, don’t even consider it.’ They always say that. But for the most part, they’re just happy I just get to go through this and be able to go to college for free and get to watch me on TV instead of reading about it. They’re pretty excited no matter what college I go to.”
Reeves actually rooted for another SEC squad growing up.
“When I was younger I always liked LSU,” he said. “I love Les Miles. Everyone always bashes him, but I think he’s a good guy and a good coach.”
Still, Reeves, who also plays basketball for CM, considers himself more of a basketball fan.
“Blue Devils all the way,” said Reeves, who is a Duke fan above all. “Since I was little, I was always a Blue Devil.”
With the Knights at 5-4 overall and 1-2 in the Catholic Conference, a postseason berth is out of the question. Reeves is hoping a win over BC High on Thanksgiving will propel the Knights to greater things next year.
But while Reeves and his teammates ultimately fell short of winning the league and making it to the Division I Super Bowl, he will always have that touchdown against Lynn Classical to look back upon, thriving in the face of intense emotional adversity, as much a testament to his ability as any 40-time, offer list or offensive or defensive statistic.
“Being able to dedicate this season to Wolfie and my [grandfather],” Reeves said, “it was a really good season for me.”