Friday, October 18, 2013 started normally for many students at Eastern Michigan University, but things quickly turned as word of Demarius Reed’s death spread across campus.
Reed was found shot to death in the stairwell outside of his University Green apartment early that morning. The night before, he and some of his teammates had been partying. News of the junior receiver’s death came as a shock to many – especially his teammates.
“It was kind of unbelievable,” senior safety/linebacker and defensive co-captain Pudge Cotton said. “It didn’t seem real because a lot of the guys – a lot of our teammates – were with him the night before at the party where it happened. We just saw him and then the next morning he’s not there at meetings and at workouts.”
Former EMU quarterback/receiver Alex Gillett reacted much the same way as Cotton did when he heard the news.
“I was shocked,” Gillett said. “My mind kind of went blank for a while, like it wasn’t real, then I just had a lot of questions.”
Cotton said Reed was an intense player on the field and the team tried to match that when it played the day after his murder.
“We were just inspired because [Reed] played with a certain mentality – a certain edge – to him and he always came with a lot of energy,” Cotton said. “We tried to match that. We tried to play for him. Pay our dues to him by trying to go out there and win a ballgame.”
Gillett agreed with him.
“He was a passionate player, he wanted to perform well just like me, sometimes we'd both get frustrated if it didn't happen but at the end of the day we both knew how competitive we both were and all we wanted to do was win.”
Gillett said he and Reed also had a good relationship off the field.
“We had a pretty good one,” Gillett said. “When we’d see each other we were always joking around and keeping the mood light.”
Some of Reed’s former teachers thought highly of him, as well.
“Demarius was a wonderful student to have in class,” Professor Ray Quiel from the Media and Communications department told the Echo the day Reed’s body was found. “He had an infectious, contagious positive energy. He always sat in the front row.”
Cotton said Reed’s absence from the locker room had a ripple effect for the rest of the season, and still does today – during what would have been his senior season.
“We would go out to practice, and not seeing him there - it was weird,” Cotton said. “He was always cracking jokes, laughing, talking smack to the defense and everything. Getting ready for the game, getting ready during game week and going to the game was weird not having him there. We tried to play hard for him because that’s what he would have wanted. He wouldn’t want us moping around, being down and crying for him and everything. He would have wanted us to go out and play hard and ball hard for him.”
Reed sent a tweet the day before he was killed, expressing his gratitude for being alive another day.
Blessed ta see another 24 please help me to make good decisions my lord— Demarius Reed (@D_Reed2) October 15, 2013
Gillett said knowing Reed and being his teammate impacts how he plays – now as a member of the practice squad for the Green Bay Packers.
“[It] makes you appreciate [playing] more and know that any day could really be your last,” he said.
Kristopher Pratt and Ed Jameal Thomas were arrested and charged with Reed’s murder. In July, Pratt took a plea deal – confessing to and pleading guilty for his role in the murder – in order to testify against Thomas.
Thomas was found not guilty.
Cotton said the team was thinking about how it would best honor Reed. He said the Eagles would be wearing a decal with Reed’s number two on their helmets, but as of Wednesday, nothing formal had been finalized.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho