Reed May’s success on the football field goes back before he began coaching at Brownstown Central 25 years ago.
His work on the gridiron goes back to his days at Bloomington South High School, where he was an All-State player as a wide receiver.
May helped the Panthers put together a 60-game winning streak.
The state football playoffs began in 1973, and May recalled there were only four teams in each of the three classes that season.
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South, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 3A that season, lost to Indianapolis Cathedral in the semifinals.
“We knew we were going to be good,” May said. “We had great coaches and worked hard. My junior year, Bloomington North became a high school, and some of the kids that were on our team as sophomores went to North, so it kind of hurt us depth-wise.”
May, who played in the North-South All-Star game, was recruited by several colleges and attended Michigan State for one year before he transferred to Arizona, where he played for three years.
He was starting as a wide receiver his senior year until he dislocated a finger during preseason practice and had to sit out some games. He would return to the field and play later in the season.
May began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Arizona for one year.
He then moved to Murray State, where he was wide receivers coach for three years, before becoming a running backs coach at Western Illinois University for two years.
After that, May moved back to Indiana to coach Franklin College’s defense for one year.
He then got out of coaching for one year.
“Then I tried to decide what I wanted to do next,” May said. “Did I want to go to high school or did I want to go to college? I decided to go to high school.”
May coached at Owensboro High School in Kentucky for four years, then at Perry Meridian under head coach Dave Enright for one year.
“Then I came to Brownstown,” May said.
May is beginning his 25th year as head coach of the Braves and has compiled a record of 240-48.
Under May, the Braves have won 12 sectionals, three regionals and 17 Mid-Southern Conference titles.
“I’ve been blessed,” May said. “One of my coaches asked me who I’ve coached with. You don’t realize it at the time, but a coach (Sherman Lewis) who recruited me at Michigan State and my receiver coach (Jimmy Ray) at Michigan State both ended up coaching in the NFL.
“Tyrone Willingham (who later coached Notre Dame) was our backup quarterback. We were the two smallest guys on the team. Some of the coaches that were at Arizona when I was there went to the NFL. Willie Peete was my receiver coach.”
May said some of the coaches he worked with in college included Frank Beamer, Mike Gottfried and Ron Zook.
“I’ve learned a lot of great things from high school coaches,” May said. “One of the reasons I wanted to go to high school is I’m very close to my family.”
He said his parents and his brother have been able to attend a lot of his Brownstown games.
“God always had a plan,” May said. “Here I am at Brownstown Central, and I love my job.”
May said he has changed his practices over the years.
“When I first got here, I treated it like a college program,” he said. “We had a live-in camp. The kids stayed at school. We had meetings as much as we did practice. Everything was designed like what I learned in college.
“We still do it. Our practices are boom, boom, boom. I don’t want any downtime. For most teams, Mondays are like a scout report, easy day. For us, our Monday practice is a good two-and-a-half-hour practice, and we’re going to get a lot done helmets only.”
Over time, practices have changed in the high school game.
“We never go full pads anymore. We never live tackle anymore,” May said. “Monday and Thursday, we’re helmets only. Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s what we call pro pads. When I first got here, we had eight days of three-a-days. We had a whole week of three-a-days with the live-in camp, and then we had three more days of three-a-days.
“Now, we have zero days of three-a-days, and we had one day of two-a-day. When I first got here, you couldn’t coach in the summer. Under the IHSAA rules, you could lift and run, but they could not be coached. You had to wait to the first day of August.”
Schools are allowed to have 12 days in the summer where they can wear helmets, shoulder pads and pro pads. Teams are allotted five days to compete with another team.
Three of those days are at the camp at Franklin College, and the other two are the seven-on-sevens at West Washington and Brownstown.
“Now, you can coach all summer, so it’s a lot more lax in the summer. You don’t have to do as much,” May said. “So with the new rules, you really don’t have to have three-a-days and two-a-days. And for a safety issue, two-a-days and three-a-days are hard on the kids.
“It’s a lot safer game now. It’s a lot more beneficial for the kids. Our numbers have skyrocketed since we started. We’re up to 66, 67 kids now, and there were years where we barely made it up to 40. You learn with the times, so we’ve changed a lot what we’re doing now.”
May said other changes he has noticed over the years is in the equipment and blocking.
“We had a 25-second clock (to run the next play), and now it’s a 40-second clock, so that’s a little different,” May said. “The biggest thing this year is the blind-side block. You’ve got to use your hands first. You used to be able to crack somebody or blind-side block. It was a kill shot. That’s what the kids wanted. The safety in the game is probably the biggest thing.
“The equipment has changed. What the kids use now or even what we had in ’93, the equipment is so much safer now than what we used to have. The safety of the helmets, the shoulder pads and all the gear is just so much better than what I played in, especially the helmets.”
May said he enjoys having his former players stop by practice and attend the games.
“It is always great when they get older and they come back and see you,” May said. “Now, you see how they turned out. Hopefully, you’ve been a positive influence on them. They’ve got to understand life is not always going to be easy.
“Football is one of those sports. It’s hard. Football is hard, and life’s hard. Hopefully, we’re teaching them life lessons. Hopefully, we’re helping them prepare for when things happen. Bad things are going to happen in their lives. Hopefully, by playing sports, they’ve learned how to handle adversity.”
He said he is pleased to see the new grandstand at Blevins Memorial Stadium this season, and he looks forward to coaching home games on turf in 2018.
Reed and his wife, Joann, have three children, stepdaughter Kayla, a freshman at BCHS; Rylee, a sixth-grader at BCMS; and Emmersyn, who is entering kindergarten.