Playing football or safety weren’t the initial goals for LSU FS Eric Reid, the top safety in the upcoming draft.
In middle school, Reid excelled at soccer and thought that was his thing. A very talented college player, however, changed his mind.
“It’s a funny story,” Reid laughed. “I was very good at soccer. But by my eighth grade year, that’s when Reggie Bush led USC. Originally, I wanted to be like Reggie Bush. He’s the guy who made me want to play football.”
The 6-2, 210-pound Reid arrived at Dutchtown High School (Geismar, La.) as a freshman running back and safety, though he wanted to be the offensive star. Another talented player changed his future.
“Alabama’s Eddie Lacy was the star running back at my high school,” Reid said. “I knew that position wasn’t going to work for me, so that’s why I switched to safety.”
And that switch proved to be very beneficial. Reid stood out in a star-studded LSU defense the past three seasons, gaining national notice when he pulled down an acrobatic, goal line interception in the fourth quarter against No. 2 Alabama on Nov. 5, 2011.
He amassed an impressive 76 tackles and two interceptions in 2011, gaining second-team All-SEC honors. Reid had an even better 2012 campaign, with 91 tackles, seven passes defended and two interceptions to make first-team All-American.
A partial right quad tear during Reid’s sophomore year was reaggravated in 2012, though he played through it. “It’s completely healthy now and not a problem,” he said.
The 21-year-old Louisiana native played his first two seasons with Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson, Cowboys CB Morris Claiborne and All-American CB Tyrann Mathieu, but he had to adjust to being the leader without their presence his junior year.
“I think it was better for him this year by not having those types of guys around him,” LSU defensive backs coach Tiger Raymond said. “It put him in the front to not just be another guy. Now he had to talk more to the younger guys and be a leader. That was one of the things that helped him become a leader in the backfield with so many freshmen playing.”
Raymond — who stayed with Reid’s father, Eric Sr., in the same LSU dorm and replaced Ron Cooper as DB coach this year — said Reid is a polished player scheme-wise, but he wanted to better his footwork, develop his leadership qualities and his pre-game preparedness.
“He can cover the slot,” Raymond said. “He’s done some nice things there for a safety. He can do multiple things. He could come into the box, make tackles, and then play in space against receivers.
“The great thing about him is the way he approaches the game. He is going to be NFL-ready. He is going to be like a veteran with the things we worked on this year.”
Raymond, who thinks Reid’s game resembles that of 49ers All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, said his talented pupil could be the face of an NFL franchise because “he does everything right on and off the field and always looks to improve himself.”
As for Reid, he is training with 40 other NFL prospects — including Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Manti Te’o, and Lacy. Reid added he’s developed a close bond with Eifert during their training as they work on safety-tight end coverage drills at half-speed, and they have even taken in a recent Miami Heat-Los Angeles Lakers game together.
One area of Reid’s game that needs improvement is covering wide receivers without checking downfield.
“The huge thing, especially for DBs in their transition to the NFL, is that it’s not like college anymore,” Reid said. “You can’t bang a receiver all the way down the field. You only have a five-yard cushion. I’m looking to improve upon my coverage without touching receivers."
Football doesn’t solely rule Reid’s life, as he is a devoted father to his precious three-year-old daughter, LeiLani, who knows it’s daddy on the TV by his number. He also wants to someday complete his business marketing degree (his parents emphasized education being vital to success throughout his childhood) and help his former teachers in his hometown whenever he can. Down the line, Reid wants to start a nonprofit organization.
“Having a child so young, it definitely changes your motives,” Reid thoughtfully stated. “When she was born, I had to grow up. I knew I had to stay focused and provide for my daughter; she is the reason that I do everything that I do.”