Navy hits pay dirt again as Read catches on big Little-recruited receiver plays key role in 2 wins as latest find for Mids

November 06, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

The Naval Academy, because of its high academic requirements and five-year military commitment, depends heavily on discovering talented players who somehow slip through the cracks.

Six years ago, Navy scouts discovered Chris McCoy playing in rural Georgia and totally ignored by other Division I schools. After a trial as a defensive back, McCoy went on to become the most productive quarterback in academy history.

Now Navy may have uncovered another hidden treasure in sophomore wide receiver Ryan Read, who also made an unlikely journey to Annapolis.

Read has been a major factor in the Midshipmen's recent resurgence, playing a leading role in consecutive come-from-behind victories over Colgate (42-35) and Boston College (32-31).

Against Colgate, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Texan caught four passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, including a 54-yarder from fellow sophomore Brian Broadwater that tied the game at 35.

Read was equally effective Saturday against Boston College, with four receptions for 110 yards. His 78-yard scoring catch triggered the Mids' fourth-quarter comeback.

All told, Read has a modest 12 receptions in seven games, but has averaged a stunning 41.4 yards per catch to go with his four touchdowns, clearly labeling him as Navy's big-play guy.

It was much the same his senior year at Westlake High in Austin, where he shattered state high school season records for catches (108) and receiving yardage (1,993).

Combining with quarterback Drew Brees, now starring at Purdue, Read's high school team finished 16-0 and won the Texas 5A state title. Read also displayed exceptional speed in track, serving as the anchorman on a state-championship sprint team.

One would imagine that every major college in Texas would have been camping on Read's doorstep with all sorts of scholarship offers. Instead, he was treated like a steer with hoof-and-mouth disease.

"Actually," said Read, who will test Rutgers' secondary tomorrow afternoon, "it wasn't until late in my senior season that I started hearing from schools like Texas A&M, and Colorado State, and I also heard from Brown. That was about it until Navy called."

There were, of course, extenuating circumstances. Before his junior year, Read tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and missed the entire season.

"I really couldn't comprehend what was going on," he said. "Your junior year in high school is really when a lot of colleges come courting, and I didn't get any exposure. The injury and my lack of size probably scared a lot of scouts away."

But Navy remained interested and assistant coach Mike Vaught, who supervises recruiting, maintained a dialogue with Read until getting his commitment to attend the academy.

"I'm realistic about my football future," said Read. "I'm not thinking of playing beyond college. I'd always dreamed of being a jet pilot, and I figured going to the Naval Academy was the best thing for my future."

Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie, who numbers 18 Texans on his roster, admits to being fortunate in landing Read.

"Ryan is from the Austin area, where there are a lot of skilled high school players," said Weatherbie. "A few of them are missed every year. That's where we have to do a great job of recruiting."

Read was not an overnight success at Navy, playing mainly with the junior varsity his freshman year before being used as an occasional punt returner.

But playing with the JV had its rewards, as he became acquainted with Broadwater, who replaced junior Steve Holley as the starting quarterback against Colgate.

"They seem to understand one another and making the defense hurt," said Weatherbie. "Ryan doesn't look like he's running very fast, but he's very smooth."

After experiencing the usual angst in adjusting to military life as a plebe, Read has now found a comfort zone.

"My first year, I went through a lot of hardships in the hall [Bancroft Hall dorm]," he said. "But the friendships I made on the football team helped me overcome all the trials. Now, I feel I've really been accepted, on and off the field."

Pub Date: 11/06/98

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