July 19, 2009
By Allison Taylor, UCLABruins.com contributor
Defensive end Reginald Stokes of the football team is featured in this week's UCLABruins.com summer spotlight. After two years of working to get onto the field, the redshirt junior had a breakout season in 2008, seeing action in 11 games and making five starts. In his first career start against Oregon, he was credited with five tackles and also blocked a field goal attempt. In the middle of the season, he missed one game due to
arthroscopic knee surgery but returned the following week and ended the season with 20 total tackles.
Q: Last season, you had a breakthrough game against Oregon. How did it feel to have such success in your first start?
A: It felt great to have my first start in college football against a good team like Oregon. Throughout the week at practice I just wanted to make sure I knew the game plan for the week and concentrate on my responsibilities. I also wanted my teammates to feel comfortable with me being out on the field with them for a full game instead of having to come in as a substitute. I got great advice from a former teammate, defensive end Justin Hickman, who told me what he did and how to get ready for a game. He also told me what I needed to work on. I also talked to fellow teammate and roommate Alterraun Verner, who also gave me some helpful tips on how to prepare for a game. Blocking the field goal was a big relief after having missed an assignment on the previous series that gave Oregon a big play. I knew I had to do something big to make up for it.
Q: You earned a starting position against USC this past season. Talk about the deep rivalry between UCLA and USC and how it felt to be out on the field for that game.
A: Well, me being from Alabama, I didn't really know much about the rivalry until my freshman year when I experienced it firsthand. Seeing the fire and intensity in my teammates' and coaches' eyes the week of the game really showed me what the rivalry was all about. It made me want to be that much better so I could help UCLA win that game in the years to come. Even before entering this game, I knew it was going to be a war from all of the publicity. What made me play harder was knowing that I was out there with friends who were raised watching this rivalry, and I wanted to help them feel the same way the previous Bruins felt after winning the game a couple of years before. When running on the field, you can feel the passion and the pride that take place during this game. The crowd has so much energy that you can feed off. But once the game starts, I really don't notice the crowd because I will be in that mindset that nothing around me matters but the calls and signals that I have to know for that particular play.
Q: In the middle of last season you had arthroscopic knee surgery and returned to the field a mere several weeks later. How did you rehabilitate your knee so quickly, and how is it holding up now?
A: I was really discouraged after my injury because I had worked so hard to start, and I was really looking forward to playing in the Cal game. I knew the only thing I could do was listen and work even harder to get back to where I was before. The training staff worked really hard with me to get me back out there on the gridiron as fast as possible. As of today, it feels fine, and I'm ready to help the Bruins get back to the top where we belong.
Q: Your hometown is Montgomery, Alabama. How did you end up so far away from home at UCLA?
A: UCLA was one of the top universities who recruited me. Praying with my family really helped me make my decision. It was hard to leave them because we're such a close family but I knew that UCLA would be a great opportunity for me.
Q: What made you choose UCLA over other scholarship offers?
A: My family and I felt that UCLA was the best place for me because the coaches and athletic department showed great character. The tradition of UCLA was very appealing to me. A lot of great players were former Bruins, so I wanted to be a part of that tradition.
Q: For you, what is the biggest difference between playing high school football and playing college football?
A: In college, you are playing with the most elite players from their respectable high schools. Everyone is a lot bigger, stronger and faster at this level of ball, so the competition is greater. Most teams are getting educated by the top coaches around. Players also play with better technique and have better athletic ability.
Q: What is your major and what are your career aspirations? Do you plan to continue playing football after college?
A: My major is history. I'm not sure what I want to do yet, but I do know that I want a job that gives back to the community. It has always been my dream to make it to the NFL, but I'm concentrating on the upcoming season first.
Q: You will be competing for the starting position at defensive end this year. What are your personal goals for this upcoming season and how do you think you can solidify that starting position?
A: I'm not only competing for the starting spot, but I am also competing to be one of the top defensive ends in college football. I start by working out at 6 am on our workout days to get myself disciplined mentally and physically. Coach Linn and his staff are doing a fantastic job of not only helping me get to where I want to be but in helping my teammates as well. They are really bringing out the competitive edge in us by having us compete in drills. I plan on solidifying my spot by working hard, competing and knowing my playbook in and out.
Q: And what are your goals for the team?
A: My goals for the team are that we stay healthy the whole season and get the Bruin Nation to a Pac-10 Championship or better.
Q: What is the best thing about being a Bruin?
A: It's a lot of fun being at a school that is so supportive of our team. The student section is always filled and cheering, so it's nice to have such a strong fanbase. I'm proud to be a Bruin!
Q: What movie can you watch over and over again without getting sick of it?
A: Remember The Titans, Glory Road, and Daddy's Little Girl
Q: Favorite musical artist?
A: Alicia Keys
Q: All-time favorite football player?
A: Reggie White
Q: Something you can't live without?
A: Technology, even though it is getting difficult to operate some of the newer models.
A: My family and friends call me Jr. My mom and dad call me Big Daddy because I was bigger and taller than most of my friends and teammates. And Darius and Chinny call me Plaxico Burress.
Q: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I watch the Disney Channel.
Q: Any pre-game superstitions?
A: I listen to my iPod and find something to smile and laugh about so I can be loose before the game. I talk to my mother (Elizabeth Stokes), father (Reginald Stokes Sr.), brother (Marquis Stokes) and girlfriend (Vanessa Reyes). And I sit on the same bus with some of my teammates who came into UCLA with me (Darius Savage, Terrence T.A Austin, Al Verner, Christian Ramirez and Tobi Umodu) when arriving at the Rose Bowl.