Brooks Reed shares a birth date, Feb. 28, with former WWE champion Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, whose signature moves were the kneeling facebuster and the spinning spinebuster.

If you take a look at Reed in his Arizona Wildcats uniform, you can almost see some of the Dragon's flamboyance. Reed's flowing blond hair spills out about a foot below his helmet. He is 6 feet 3inches and 255 pounds, and his body fat appears to be, what, 0.1percent?

He gets your attention right now.

"He's got one speed, and that's flat-out, in your face," says UA defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt. "He's relentless, focused and explosive."

Reed led the Wildcats with eight sacks in 2008, and although he didn't break anyone's face or fracture anyone's spine, he has wrestling in his genes. His father, Bob Reed, was an all-city wrestler at Catalina High School and, later, a varsity wrestler at the UA.

In his final season at Sabino High School, 2005, Reed defined himself by saying: "I don't have many jukes. Hitting is what I play for." And hitting is what he has done.

Born on Feb. 28, 1987, which makes him 34 years younger than Steamboat, Reed has created his own identity. He is the oldest player on Arizona's defense - 3 1/2 years older than starting linebacker Jake Fischer and five years older than touted freshman safety Marquis Flowers.

Reed is long past the rookie-mistakes period.

"I wouldn't call Brooks an animal," says fellow senior defensive end Ricky Elmore. "I'd call him extremely intense."

The thing with Brooks Reed is that he's not at all what he appears. He's a nice guy. He's a huge "Seinfeld" fan, which speaks for his sense of humor. "He's uncomplicated," says his father. "He's a good kid."

He is also a survivor. When he was listed as an honorable mention selection to the Star's 2004 All-Southern Arizona team, he was just another name in the small print. The real all-stars of the '04 team - five Division I recruits - were unable to complete their college football careers.

Salpointe tackle Ian Brinker went to Oregon State and soon quit football. Ironwood Ridge guard Daniel Borg left football to concentrate on academics. Salpointe receiver Jack Darlington had to retire from the Nevada Wolf Pack after two serious concussions. Sabino defensive lineman Cody Jones similarly left football for health reasons, leaving the Cal Bears after suffering a neck injury.

The real irony is that one of Reed's lifelong buddies, fellow Sabino Sabercat Glyndon Bolasky, who had the higher profile of the two, left the UA roster after a knee injury.

Reed is the last man standing from the fall of 2004, and he deserves credit for perseverance.

"It's funny," he says, "during my freshman season, I was playing H-back, fullback basically, and they were expecting me to start. They thought pretty highly of me. But then Earl Mitchell came along, and I had to start all over."

Reed is neither loud nor demonstrative. He's not the vocal type of leader Elmore has become, and he's not an animated, hey-look-at-me type that generally is part of a sack master's profile.

He's as quiet as a 255-pound man chasing a quarterback in a stadium seating 58,000 people can be. He's seen if not heard.

"I think you can lead by example," says Reed. "To me, that's why I play so hard in practice. I know that the only way I can be good in a game is to be good in practice. You've got to love to play. You just can't play for the scholarship money."

In the UA's 2009 training camp, Reed was poised to be the Next Big Thing. Most of the magazines placed him on the preseason All-Pac-10 team and then, pffffft, in Game 3, at Iowa, he suffers an ankle sprain that was so debilitating that he had difficulty walking without pain for the rest of the season.

"I've erased all of that stuff from my memory," he says. "In my mind, this year is going to be a lot different. You've got to have an inner drive to want to get better, and that's the way I play."

This is how fickle college football can be: Reed is on nobody's All-Pac-10 preseason list this year, and yet he has never been bigger, faster or stronger. It's like he has disappeared. Phil Steele's College Football Yearbook, which is the best of its kind, didn't even include him on its All-Pac-10 fourth team.

For Arizona in 2010, this can be a good thing. Motivation, thy name is Brooks Reed.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or