D.J. Reed has more on his mind than playing his former team, playing one of the sport’s most difficult positions and trying to help his Seahawks this week.
Seattle’s starting cornerback will be wearing reminders of what his father is going through back in Waterloo, Iowa.
“Multiple Sclerosis. MS. Those are the cleats right there,” Reed said Thursday, displaying his specially designed aqua-blue, orange and gold shoes he’ll be wearing Sunday when he and the Seahawks (3-8) play the San Francisco 49ers (6-5) at Lumen Field.
“They look good, too.”
Reed has watched his 60-year-old dad, Dennis Reed, Sr. — the Seahawk is Dennis Jr, “D.J.” — become debilitated by the insidious disease of the brain and spinal cord, the central nervous system.
“My father, he has MS,” Reed said, directly. “So, I just want to bring some awareness to it.
“From a personal standpoint, it’s serious as far as you watch someone who’s able to walk, that’s living an active life, to all of a sudden slowly but surely is unable to walk. Starts off with he’s using a cane — to all of a sudden he’s in a wheelchair, to all of a sudden he doesn’t have movement of anything on his body, really, other than his hands, and that’s really shaky.
“Just want to bring awareness to it — and find a cure.”
That kind of puts losing football games in perspective, eh?
There remains no cure for MS. The Mayo Clinic says doctors often prescribe reatments with drugs such as prednisone and other corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the central nervous system. There are multiple treatments to “modify progression” of MS, but, again, not cure the disease.
The fiery, energetic Reed has consistently made aggressive plays since late last season. That won him the right-cornerback job. The Seahawks traded former 49ers starter Akhello Witherspoon and eventually waived their 2018 and ‘19 starter Tre Flowers this season because of how good Reed has been, after San Francisco had released him while he was injured in the summer of 2020.
So, yes, on the field Sunday’s game against the 49ers also means more than the average one to him.
“You know me, I’m excited,” he said, with a grin.
“Obviously, that’s my former team. I love playing in every game that I get to play in, but this game is for sure special to me.”
Reed is one 35 Seahawks players and staff, including Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, who will be wearing custom game shoes Sunday for the NFL’s annual My Cleats My Cause initiative.
Defensive tackle L.J. Collier is wearing cleats representing the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network for the second consecutive year. Collier’s mother Ruby died of pancreatic cancer in 2015, when he was a freshman at Texas Christian University.
Starting right tackle Brandon Shell is wearing shoes for the National Stuttering Association, the world’s largest nonprofit organization that empowers children and adults who stutter.
Like with Reed, his cause is personal Shell, 29, bulled through stuttering when he was a kid.
During the Seahawks’ bye week last year, he hosted a dozen high-school-aged kids for an online Zoom question-and-answer session (because of pandemic restrictions) to talk about their fears and struggles, about feeling picked on and overwhelmed because they stutter.
Shell still remembers classmates making fun of him, laughing and yelling at him to “get the word out!” He was afraid to talk. Kids picked on his silence by nicknaming him Jolly Green Giant, Big Softy, Big Teddy Bear.
Those are the printable names.
“That Zoom call, I know there are a lot of kids that struggle with the stuttering,” he said in October 2020. “I just know that, being like a guy that I am, and I am using my platform to actually let them know that it’s OK if you have that problem. You can get through it. And it’s not going to define you and what you want to be in life.”
Russell Wilson displayed his version this year of his cleats. They are representing his and his wife Ciara’s Why Not You? foundation, and, new this year, their charter school of the same name in south King County. Wilson’s shoes have depictions of several students at his school on the sides and a green glittering effect on the bottoms.
“Yeah, they are pretty awesome,” Wilson said. “The artist (Seattle native) Stevie Shao helped me with these. We have some pretty awesome cleats for our foundation, the Why Not You? foundation.
“I love what the NFL does with My Cause My Cleats. I’ve had some cool shoes along the way.”
Wide receiver DK Metcalf is again wearing cleats to raise awareness for Prison Fellowship, a social-justice organization that seeks criminal-justice reform and to restore lives of those affected by crime and incarceration.
Tight end Will Dissly is wearing shoes representing 4Ocean. That’s an environmental organization in south Florida, Hawaii, Indonesia, Haiti and Guatemala whose mission is to end the world’s crisis of plastics polluting seas and killing and damaging the global marine ecosystem.
Carroll will be wearing shoes for Choose 180, an organization based in Burien that “envisions a future where youthful behavior is decriminalized and young people are offered restorative practices in lieu of traditional prosecution.”
“At a crucial time in their lives, Choose 180 steps in and does some great stuff for people,” Carroll said Friday. “I’m proud to be able to recognize that.”
Schneider’s cause for his shoes at Sunday’s game is for his and his wife Traci’s Ben’s Fund, which provides financial support and guidance to children and young adults in Washington who have autism. The Schneiders founded Ben’s Fund in 2012 to honor their son Ben, who was diagnosed with autism at age 3.
Here is the list of Seahawks and their causes they will be wearing on their feet during Sunday’s game, as provided by the team:
Cody Barton — Paradigm Foundation
DeeJay Dallas — Justice For Black Girls
DK Metcalf — Prison Fellowship
Al Woods — Community Change
Pete Carroll — Choose 180
Seahawks Dancers — Broadview Domestic Violence Shelter
Healthcare & Accessibility
L.J. Collier — Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
Poona Ford — National Breast Cancer Foundation
Stone Forsythe — YESS Foundation
Kyle Fuller — Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
Gabe Jackson — National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Sidney Jones IV — Mental Health America (MHA)
Damien Lewis — His Steps Ministries, Inc.
Bryan Mone — Choice Supports
D.J. Reed — National MS Society
Colby Parkinson — Children’s Hunger Fund
Brandon Shell — National Stuttering Association (NSA)
Freddie Swain — Alzheimer’s Association
Darrell Taylor — American Breast Cancer Foundation
Walter Jones — Ben’s Fund/Nine Line
John Schneider — Ben’s Fund
Nick Bellore — 3 Mariposas Montessori
Marquise Blair and Jordyn Brooks — Youth Achievement Center
Chris Carson — Seattle Children’s Foundation
Alex Collins — Adversity Killers
Carlos Dunlap II — The Carlos Dunlap Foundation
Gerald Everett — The Gerald Everett Foundation
Penny Hart — Read and Right ATL
Alton Robinson — Pay It Forward
Geno Smith — 7 Sunday Heroes Foundation
Russell Wilson — Why Not You Foundation
Mascot Blitz — Kicks4Kids