New England Patriots wide receiver Bernard Reedy will show up to his offseason job back home in St. Petersburg, Florida, just a little bit late this year. But he has a good excuse. Instead of making $11 an hour working as a driver providing transportation to people confined to wheelchairs, he's in Minneapolis. Instead of preparing for offseason workouts, he's going to the Super Bowl.
All the adversity he has faced -- from the whole year he spent out of football in 2015, to the knee injury he was rehabbing in 2016, to his release by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in November -- has led him to a place few thought possible.
"It’s just surreal. I feel like the more I read my Bible, the more doors open," said Reedy, 26, who entered the league in 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo. "For the most part, my dream is coming true. I’m in a place that I always thought about being when I was younger as a kid.
"Sometimes I don’t even know what to say," Reedy added. "Just gotta kind of sit back and thank God at just [how] blessed and how fortunate I am to be in the position I’m in, just going from trying to make a team, working at the same time, scratching up dimes and pennies and putting all [my] chips in [to now]. But I always feel like if you give 100 percent [good things will happen]."
A football backup plan
After being cut by the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, Reedy got a job as a driver with Care Ride, providing transportation to people battling terminal illnesses and recovering from strokes, heart attacks, organ transplants, amputations and serious accidents. With his NFL dream on pause, he needed a steady stream of income.
He has worked there every offseason since, and every time he's been cut in his NFL career -- six times in four seasons. The experience has kept him grounded and provides some perspective.
"I used to think about a lot of the people I would pick up and the situations that they [were] in and the stories I heard. Some of the stories, the normal average person wouldn't believe, but that stuff's true," Reedy said. "It's just ironic that I've had a job like that in the situation that I was in. To be around positivity and listen to people go through what I went through -- I went through it sportswise and they went through it in life. It was tough to want to play and to want to be on somebody's team and [I] just [didn't] get the break yet, but I also thought, 'What about the people on life support? What about the people who can't walk that want to walk again?' That stuff's way more serious than running around and playing football."
Care Ride has been accommodating with his NFL schedule, allowing him to work three days a week during the offseason. Even after Reedy made the Bucs' 53-man roster in September -- a major victory for the undersized but speedy 5-foot-8 wideout -- he reported to work at Care Ride one week later. While the rest of his Bucs teammates boarded charter flights to escape the path of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, Reedy stayed behind to transport about five of Care Ride's clients to special-needs evacuation shelters.
That didn't surprise those who know him best. Reedy has spent his NFL earnings on fixing up his family's small two-bedroom home in south St. Petersburg. He spent three days this offseason painting it light and dark green with white trim. He also had a new driveway installed and a fence put in. He purchased washer and dryer units, too.
"I know Bernard's heart. His mom's there, his sister's there with her little baby," Care Ride operations manager Vince Cocks said. "His heart's in St. Pete. And when he had some time, he came to help us and it was absolutely wonderful."
The Bucs released Reedy on Nov. 20, and the Patriots signed him to their practice squad two days later. He appeared in two games, returning four punts for 32 yards, and bounced between the practice squad and the active roster before being dropped from the practice squad on Jan. 3.
That's when he called Care Ride.
"He said, 'Mr. Vince, can I come work for a while?'" Cocks said. "And I said, 'Well, Bernard, this is kind of odd, but your DOT [Department of Transportation] physical expired in October. You have to get a physical.' And in all likelihood, he's in the best physical shape of anybody that Care Ride ever hired."
That stay was short-lived anyway. The Patriots called and he was headed back to Foxborough, Massachusetts, re-signing on Jan. 17.
"That's just what comes with the NFL and what teams need for them," Reedy said. "My job is to stay ready, be respectful, be coachable and be that positive person that I've always been. Like I will always be ready, even through the ups and downs, being released, getting put back on [the roster], I'm still going to be the same old person regardless of what might happen."
Reedy's status for Sunday is uncertain, but his work hasn’t gone unnoticed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"He’s a great kid," Belichick said. "He’s been on and off our roster in a couple different roles -- from practice squad to active roster, returning kicks, playing receiver and so forth. He’s a great kid, works hard, he tries to do everything we’ve asked. He’s trying to continue to develop his career and build off what he did in Tampa.
"Our situation is what it is -- sometimes we’ve been able to have an opportunity for him, sometimes we haven’t. But it’s never stopped him from working hard and doing everything he can for himself or try to help our punt team or defensive team prepare for what the opponents are doing. So we’ll see how it goes."
'The work don't stop'
Care Ride's drivers and dispatchers have all been buzzing about Sunday. Cocks and his wife, Robin, have become Patriots fans. She even made him buy her a blue Patriots shirt, which she wore to school the next day for her job as a speech therapist.
Cocks also made sure to call one of Reedy's favorite clients, Carlos Velez, who was in near disbelief.
Velez, 70, who served in both Korea and Vietnam, is legally blind and has undergone a kidney transplant and brain surgery. He said if he gets close enough to the television screen, he can make out some figures with his good left eye. He has told his neighbors and anyone else who will listen about Reedy.
"He's a real, real nice guy. He can be the best football player, the star of the world, but he's got his people back here, the poor people and everything, and he's always with them," Velez said. "That doesn't go to his head. That is the reason I like him, because of the way he is."
Velez recalled a conversation they had on Valentine's Day 2017.
"Sometimes in the road, you've got a lot of stones and holes and everything, but if you keep going and going, you will make it. You will go to the end of the road," Velez told him. "... Never give up. Keep going. No matter what."
For Reedy, that road has led to the Super Bowl, but it certainly doesn't end there. He's under contract for next season, but he plans to go back to Care Ride within two weeks of the Super Bowl, with his old Bible replaced by a personalized one given to him by the Patriots' character coach, Jack Easterby, who is a chaplain.
"As soon as our offseason officially starts," Reedy said, "I'll be back at Care Ride when I'm able to. The work don't stop. Everybody still needs help."
ESPN's Mike Reiss and Tim McManus contributed to this report.