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Former Monessen gridiron star Reader played in three pro leagues

| Friday, June 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Monessen's Jamie Reader was a star running back at Akron, before heading on to the NFL.
Akron University
Monessen's Jamie Reader was a star running back at Akron, before heading on to the NFL.
Jamie Reader ... today.
Chad Carroto/For The Valley Independent
Jamie Reader ... today.

Monessen's Jamie Reader is the answer to a good sports trivia question.

He's the only area gridder to play in the NFL, NFL Europe and XFL.

Only the late Jo Jo Heath played in more pro football leagues overall than Reader.

A 1993 Monessen High graduate, Reader is best known for his time with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL.

Although he was only on the Eagles' roster two and a half years, he went to five of the team's training camps.

After playing four years at the University of Akron and making the Hula Bowl in Hawaii, the 6-0, 238-pound Reader was bypassed in the NFL Draft, despite being projected among the top five fullbacks in the country.

“Only four of five fullbacks got drafted that year,” he said. “Arizona signed me, but I was only with them a couple of weeks. Miami then picked me up where I spent two years on the Dolphins' practice squad.”

Enter NFL Europe where Reader played one season for the Scottish Claymores.

Philadelphia was the next stop, where Reader was the backup fullback to Stanley Pritchett.

“I was always one play away from being the Eagles fullback, but Pritchett never got hurt when I was there,” he recalled.

Reader then opted for the San Francisco Demons in the new XFL created by WWE chairman Vince McMahon.

The Demons were good enough to advance to XFL championship (“Million Dollar Game”) where they lost to Los Angeles Extreme, 38-6, in 2001.

The Extreme's quarterback was Tommy Maddox, who signed several months later with the Pittsburgh Steelers and played five years for coach Bill Cowher.

Reader was a three-year starter for the late Jack Scarvel at Monessen.

He was a defensive end as a sophomore and fullback-linebacker as a junior and senior. He made the Tri-County South Conference team his last two years.

Reader's most memorable game was at Connellsville against Geibel.

“Geibel was pretty good then and was one of our big rivals,” he claimed. “We were down 15-0 at halftime and coach Scarvel snapped in the dressing room. We came back to win and I had four touchdowns, including the winner with one second left.”

Trailing 22-6 going into the fourth quarter in a battle of the conference co-leaders, Reader scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a thrilling 24-22 victory.

Scarvel considered it one of the greatest comeback wins in the school's history.

In Reader's junior year, Monessen was a win away from going to the WPIAL Class A championship game, but lost to eventual titlist Rochester, 40-7, in the semifinals.

Reader ran for more than 1,300 yards as a senior and scored 109 points.

Pitt, Akron, Rutgers and most of the Mid-American Conference teams were interested in Reader.

“I really wanted to go to Pitt,” he said. “Sal Sunseri was recruiting me and they were going through a coaching change with Paul Hackett out before Johnny Majors was brought back. Gerry Faust was coaching at Akron and assistant Bob Junko recruited a lot of WPIAL players, including Monessen's Keith Davis and the Coles brothers, Bryan and Jaison, before me.”

“Akron went with the triple option,” he said. “One year I was the featured back. I had a 100-yard game against Kent State and scored two touchdowns against Virginia Tech. My last two years I was more of a receiving back and blocked one season for Ringgold's Greg Lomax.”

He was voted the Zips' Most Valuable Back as a sophomore and senior.

Reader ran for 751 yards for the Zips and caught 45 passes for 316 yards.

Reader's football playing days ended after the 2002 campaign.

“The NFL was becoming a passing league and the Eagles were keeping only one fullback on the roster,” he said. “I saw the handwriting on the wall. I chased a dream long enough and came back home.”

Reader married his college sweetheart, Misti Spring of Steubenville, Ohio, and has three children: Jami,17, who lives in Richmond, Va., Farrah, 8, and Roman, 2 12.

He is employed at the State Corrections Institution in Waynesburg as activities specialist coordinating activities for inmates.

Before that he was the fatherhood coordinator at the SPHS Family Center in Monessen.

He was also an assistant football coach for 10 years at Monessen for Joe Fischer and Andy Pacak, working with running backs and serving as offensive coordinator.

Brian Herman is a freelance writer.

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