Offensive line building around center Reiter
TAMPA -- Just by its in-the-trenches nature, the offensive line gets its share of blue-collar metaphors, with a hard-hat work ethic and a bring-your-lunch-pail mentality. Austin Reiter can appreciate the references.
The USF sophomore, now in position to take over as the Bulls' starting center, got much of his strength and more of his demeanor working for his father Richard's construction company growing up in Sarasota. The 6-foot-3, 278-pound center got that way breaking up pavement with a 25-pound sledgehammer and lugging hundreds of 75-pound blocks to build walls on job sites.
"My parents really raised me to have a strong work ethic," said Reiter, a Lakewood Ranch graduate who played sparingly as a backup last season. "It's really back-breaking stuff. Every summer, I was working with Dad, from 6 a.m. to 6 in the afternoon. ... My dad's a real hard worker. He doesn't just stand around on a job site."
Richard Reiter played college football as well, playing offensive line at Cincinnati 30 years ago, and Austin could have followed in his father's footsteps there, but chose to stay close to home, enrolling at USF in January 2010, a week before Skip Holtz came in as head coach. The new coaching staff has seen an emergence this spring as Reiter has jumped at an opening in the Bulls' starting lineup.
"He's all the sudden been put in a situation where, you know what, we need you to be the guy, and he's matured immensely," Shankweiler said. "Seriously, he's going to end up being a really, really good football player over the next three years. As a line coach, you're looking for kids that have a little -- I have to be careful how I say this -- a little grit in their neck. He's a tough son of a gun. He'll fight you now. He's a hard-nosed kid. The guy works hard."
Ask Reiter what he remembers as the most grueling challenge of construction work, and he'll pick up an imaginary Allan block, a 75-pound piece of stone used to build retaining walls. He'd unload a pallet of 15 of them into a vehicle, drive them to the back of a house, unload them, then repeat the process over and over -- a project might have 2,400 blocks before a wall is done.
"You really get your arms going," said Reiter, who could move 900 blocks in one day as part of a two-man crew. "My high school coaches really loved that."
Reiter's father, who once counted Urban Meyer among his Bearcats teammates, said his son's helping out at work started out one summer when he wanted extra money to buy a Go-ped motorized scooter. He remembers one contract re-tiling Exxon stations in Georgia that called for overnight shifts that started at 9 p.m. and ran until morning so the station could still serve customers.
"He loved it, and he loved the pay," his father said. "But I told him the other day I was quoting a job for 1,800 Allan blocks and he said that if he never sees another Allan block, it'll be too soon."
Reiter remembers helping his father out in grade school and swinging the sledgehammer when he was 13, so he's also comfortable working and holding his own when surrounded by older, more experienced colleagues. He has the least college experience of USF's projected starting line, matching right tackle Quinterrius Eatmon as the youngest, and he'll have the chance to be USF's first three-year starter at center in the Big East era. USF's coaches like the way he's taken charge of a veteran line despite his relative youth.
"He's always been talented, has always had very good athleticism for the position," offensive coordinator Todd Fitch said. "But just the ability to run the line, to be the guy making all the calls. Being able to execute that, as he develops and continues to get game experience, he has a chance to be a really good player. It's been fun to watch him, because he was the one guy of the group we started camp with, he hadn't really played when it counted. We're pleased with where he started from and where he's at."