His path to the NFL Draft might be over, but D.J. Reader’s career as an NFL player has just begun.
The former Clemson nose tackle was selected No. 166 overall by the Houston Texans in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft on Saturday. He was one of nine Clemson players selected in the NFL Draft—the most in a draft class from Clemson since 1983—and one of seven from the defensive side of the football.
“I’m just excited,” Reader said on Houston Texans.com. “It is just a great program and a great team with a great group of coaches.”
Getting to the Texans has been a crazy ride for the 6-foot-2, 333-pound defensive tackle. Last summer, just before the Tigers were to kick off the season, Reader left the team to deal with what was termed “Personal reasons.”
His status on coming back was up in the air.
“It has been a big battle. It is something I had to deal with,” he said. “I took it in stride as a man and I think it has made me a better person.”
Reader admitted he took a leave of absence so he could properly grieve for his father, who passed away the year before. He allowed things to build up and he needed to get away so he could work his way through it.
“I needed to get help for my grieving. It was something I had to deal with,” he said. “It has made me a better person. It has helped me out a lot. It has helped me as an individual and it has helped me grow as a man.”
It helped Reader rediscover his passion for football and got him back to Clemson, where he finished his senior year with 31 tackles in eight games. He made his first appearance back during the Tigers’ 58-0 victory at Miami on Oct. 24. He played in every game after that, including five starts.
Reader had six tackles in the College Football Playoff Championship Game against Alabama.
“I have been though a lot. People have told me I could not do certain things. I have had to work for everything that I have,” he said.
Proving he can get it done is what ultimately got Reader drafted by the Texans, who are looking for a nose tackle, who can play anywhere on the defensive line and can cause issues in the middle.
“I played nose tackle, but played the 0-5 technique. At Clemson we played everywhere on the line depending on what package we were in so I have played everywhere out there,” Reader said.
The former Clemson Tiger says he is ready to help Houston’s already stout defense get even better, and he can’t believe he is getting an opportunity to play with NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt.
“That is crazy. That is a guy you look up to, especially considering he is one of the best to ever play,” Reader said. “In my opinion he is the best defensive lineman to have ever played. You look up to him because he is a guy that has a great work ethic. He practices every day and lives his life the best way he can so it will be really good to study under a guy like that.”
Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports