At 5-8, 188 pounds and blessed with blazing speed, Florida State cornerback and return man Greg Reid was on the fast track to the NFL. Heading into his senior season, Reid was elected a preseason Second Team All-American, touted as one of the most exciting return men in the country, and ready to anchor a talented Seminoles defense that had hopes of winning the ACC and making a BCS bowl game.
But every time Florida State gave him an inch, Reid took a mile.
First, the Valdosta, Georgia native was charged with resisting arrest and perjury in a bizarre case that was eventually dropped. Then, in July of 2012, Reid was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession (he denied the pot was his), driving with a suspend license and a seat belt violation while home during the summer. Following that incident, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher decided that he had had enough of Reid’s tactics and dismissed the senior-to-be from the team.
Though his days at Florida State were numbered, Reid still had an opportunity to take the field after transferring to D-II powerhouse Valdosta St. While his reputation took a hit, Reid still had the opportunity to play and his dreams of making it to the NFL were still intact. This time, though, it wasn’t another run-in with the law that kept him off the field; instead it was his body betraying him. While returning a punt in the final preseason game before Valdosta State’s 2012 season, Reid tore his ACL, sidelining him from football and effectively putting what seemed like a surefire NFL career in jeopardy.
At 22 years old, Reid’s life was at a crossroads. Shunned from a high-profile university and physically unable to play, Reid went back home and lived by himself while he recovered from his ACL surgery. There he faced a choice: He could either have a woe-is-me approach to life and give up completely, or take a step back and reflect on the the path that had brought him back home to Georgia and use it as a learning experience. Luckily, Reid chose the latter. “It’s about choices, man,” Reid says. “Sometimes you make the wrong choices but you can’t let that become a habit. That’s the main thing I have learned…I didn’t have a choice but to be mature from this and grow up a bit. For someone who loves the game like I do, to miss a whole year and be dismissed from a team that I was committed to for three years was tough. I had to be mature about the whole process. It opened my eyes as a person and as a man.”
While Reid’s decision to return to his hometown school seemed questionable considering he would be around the same environment that had brought him down in the past, Reid insists that the decision was more about his mental growth than football. To hear him tell it, Reid sounds like an old soul trapped in a young man’s body. “I didn’t want to run from my problems, I wanted to face them,” says a humbled Reid. “After I decided that, I felt like I did a pretty good job. The hardest thing in life is to overcome and succeed through problems and that’s what I did…I wanted to face my problems early and get them out of the way put in my mind that I know I can do it and have no worries.”
Despite not playing last season, Reid made enough of an impression during his time at Florida State that he received an invitation to this year’s Combine. Though he didn’t work out due to his injury, Reid got the chance to sit with coaches and not only tell his side of the story but give them a chance to see that he isn’t a troublemaker but rather a thoughtful, ambitious kid who loves the game and is ready to make the leap to the NFL. “I just went in there and expected to be me,” Reid says of his Combine interviews. “I was honest with everything and I think it went really well…A lot of people said I have character issues, I don’t have character issues. Everyone knows why I got kicked off the team, it was basically because of stupid choices. I’m still Greg, though…I’ve outgrown the choices I made and now I understand what life is about.”
Now that he’s spoken his peace with the people that will soon dictate his future, Reid is back to focusing on football and what he can bring to a team. Prior to his injury, the explosive return man (Reid was only a couple hundred yards shy of breaking Deion Sanders’ return yards record at FSU) was running his 40 time in the 4.3′s. Combine that with an impressive set of natural instincts that can allow him to, without a doubt, make an impact on special teams in the NFL, and it may be hard for NFL general managers to pass on Reid if he is still available in the later rounds of the Draft, especially given how valuable a premier return man can be.
Reid has been training hard and will run for scouts at Florida State’s Pro Day, which will be the final chance for him to make an impression on those decision makers before April’s Draft. After a season away from the game, Reid, more than anything, wants to get out on the field and have some fun, put all of his problems behind him and come back a dedicated player and teammate. “I missed a whole year so I’m going to be dedicated, of course,” Reid says. “A key thing that not a lot of people mention is just to have fun. That’s all I want to do: have fun and live. That’s what you get from me: a vocal leader, a person who’s dedicated to the game, a person who’s dedicated to my teammates in the locker room and just have fun and win games.”
After a trying road to to redemption, Reid finally has his dreams within reach. With so much turbulence in his life over the past year, it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day he is a football player and his story will hopefully be told on the field rather than in police blotters.
“I just want to get out there and tackle somebody, man, I just want to put on the pads and hit somebody,” he says. “I’m tired of all this training. I want to play now.”
Peter Walsh is an Editorial Assistant for TD Magazine and SLAM Magazine and a Throwback Jersey expert. Follow him @goinginsquad.