SIGNING DAY 2017: Odessa High’s Reed Anastasio finds right fit, signs with Hardin-Simmons

Danny Servance thought back to when he first got to know Reed Anastasio.

As Odessa High’s head football coach addressed the crowd gathered in the OHS Fieldhouse on Wednesday afternoon, he recalled those days, back in the mid-2000’s when he and Reed’s father, coach Matt Anastasio, were assistants on the same staff at Permian, and young Reed, still a grade-schooler, would bounce around the athletics facilities.

“I’ve known Reed since he was about this high” — Servance said, putting a hand down around waist level — “running around on the football field.”

Yes, Reed Anastasio has been around football, football teams and football fields for just about his entire life.

And, after Wednesday, he knows his time with the game won’t end with high school.

The Bronchos linebacker signed on continue his football career at Hardin-Simmons University in front of friends, family, faculty and classmates Wednesday at a signing ceremony in the fieldhouse.

“It’s just a dream come true,” Anastasio said after putting pen to paper.

Anastasio joins the Cowboys’ 2017 recruiting class after spending his senior season with the Bronchos this past fall. Anastasio was an All-District 30-5A linebacker at Gregory-Portland in 2015 before he left for Odessa High with his dad, who stepped down as head coach there to join Servance’s staff as the Bronchos’ defensive coordinator.

Anastasio earned honorable mention recognition on the All-District 2-6A team as a Broncho this past season in an injury-shortened senior campaign.

Then he visited Hardin-Simmons in mid-January and knew right away that it was where he wanted to suit up next.

“Very beautiful campus, very beautiful people — nice, kind people,” Anastasio said. “It’s a place I know I’m going for academics and not just football.

“Hardin-Simmons just felt natural — like home.”

Perhaps there’s good reason for that. Coach Matt Anastasio played at Hardin-Simmons in the early 1990’s and graduated from there. Plus, current Hardin-Simmons head coach Jesse Burleson coached alongside the elder Anastasio and Servance on that same Permian staff in 2005.

But those connections alone aren’t what led Reed to signing with the Cowboys. Instead, another big part of it was Burleson’s insistence that he wanted Reed on his team not because of those connections, but because of the decorated linebacker’s own merit as a player and student.

“Coach Burleson did one heck of a job of making sure that (Reed) understood that they weren’t recruiting him because of me; they were recruiting him because of his play on the field and his academics,” coach Anastasio said. “That made him feel more at home.

“I told him, wherever he wanted to go, it was his choice. And he said he just fell in love with it on that recruiting trip, and didn’t want to take any more, and that was the place he was going to go.”

Still, he admitted, seeing his son choose to sign with his alma mater Wednesday was a cool feeling.

“It’s a good feeling,” he said. “There are good people at Hardin-Simmons. Any time you send your son away, or your daughter away, to a college, you always want to make sure that there’s good people there, because now they’re going to be around them more than they’re around you and they’re still growing as young adults.

“The system they have set up at Hardin-Simmons is great. It couldn’t make us prouder as parents.”

Servance said Anastasio will fit in well with the Cowboys.

“He’s a kid who was the heart of our team,” Servance said. “He’s a kid who you didn’t have to tell to bring it each night. You didn’t have to get on him about practicing hard. He’s the type of kid who was very reliable, who was always on task. He was one of the leaders, easily, on our football team.

“(Burleson) recruits those type of kids — the kids that are on-task and have put themselves in a position, grade-wise, to where they can go and continue their education,” Servance added. “Very conscientious kids. He’s one of those that fall into that category.”

Anastasio played linebacker and punted for the Bronchos this past fall, and said he’ll play wherever his coaches want him to play at Hardin-Simmons.

He’s just glad he’s still getting to play the game he has always loved — and Wednesday, above anything else, he was grateful for the Bronchos teammates he shared that love of the game with this past season, and who helped him get to the next level.

“It’s exciting. I can’t thank those players enough,” he said, looking over the gym floor to his old teammates who were there to support him during the signing. “They put their guts on the line for me.

“I’m just happy I’m able to represent Odessa High School.”