Adam Reed won over his American Heritage High School coaches for a coveted spot on the Patriots' varsity team

By Maria Coder
Updated September 03, 2015 01:00 PM
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They say it’s not the size of the man in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the man – Adam Reed knows all about that.

At 4’5″ and 95 lbs., the tiny high school football player had to either go big – and make the varsity team football team – or go hang up his spikes.

Reed, 17, who attends American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida, has been playing on the middle school and junior varsity teams at Heritage since the sixth grade but last month, upon entering senior year, his age and year in school became a big problem.

He had aged out of the JV squad … so if he wanted to play, he’d have to make the varsity team called the Patriots, which is one of the Top 20-ranked high school teams nationwide by USA Today, the Miami Herald reports.

So, Reed made the varsity team, despite not having the size that’s almost universally required in such a physical sport. He’s now the fifth-string running back.

“I work hard in the field and in the weight room, and the results paid off, and I was able to find a spot on the varsity team,” Reed told PEOPLE. “Being 4’5″, that’s not going to stop me from working hard.”

To make the team, Reed had to hold his own against his teammates. The second-smallest player is 15 inches taller and more than 50 pounds heavier. The biggest on the team is 6’6″ and 338 lbs. Now on the team, Reed just needs to make a game.

While there aren’t any guarantees on the end result, Reed’s coach is keeping an open mind. “I have some plans and ideas to get him involved because he sacrificed the way everybody else sacrificed,” coach Mike Rumph told the Herald, noting that Reed’s been at every offseason meeting, every workout and every practice.

Patrick Surtain, Heritage’s defensive coordinator and a former Dolphins Pro Bowl cornerback, is also impressed. “It’s special to see somebody that diminutive, being dealt a tough hand, coming out here and working just like any other person,” he said.

Reed’s not only won over his coach but his teammates, too, even if at first they did a double-take.

“I’m not going to lie; when I first saw him it was kind of shocking,” junior tailback Kyshaun Bryan, the Patriots’ leading rusher last season, told the newspaper.

But Reed is certainly popular with fans. At the Battle of the Borders Classic in Atlanta, fans lined up to get pictures with the tiny player, as well as his highly recruited teammates.

Adam’s size does pose some training challenges. “Squatting for instance, everybody has the squat bar set high,” he explained, adding that it’s solvable. “I have to wait till they’re done so I can lower it.”

It’s unknown why Reed is the size that he is. “Adam is adopted and we don’t have a very accurate birth history but basically [doctors] don’t know,” his mother, Lisa Reed, told PEOPLE. “They had him on growth hormones but he doesn’t respond.”

Despite the potential dangers of the game, Lisa, who adopted Adam two days after he was born, says she’s glad his size isn’t holding him back from doing what he loves.

“I would try to take any precaution I could but I would never tell a child he couldn’t do something because of his size,” she said.

Lisa, who describes herself as her son’s cheerleader, added that he’s keeping his head in the game rather than focusing on his newfound fame.

“His mind is on Heritage playing Saturday night,” she said. “It’s a big game and that’s where his mind is set, that’s where he is.”

Lisa said she thinks she will get to see her son play in a game, adding, “I think the coach might have something up his sleeve for Adam.”

Adam said his mom’s support means the world to him. “She’s up there cheering in the stands and I love her for that.”

If he’s chosen to play, Reed could become the shortest local high school player to ever get into a varsity football game.

“Of course I’m going to get in the game and go all the way, ” he said very confidently “on or off the field.”

“I want to win a championship ring,” Adam said. “It doesn t matter what my role is, I give my 100% whatever it is.”