VALDOSTA — As his teammates of less than two months buckled up their helmets for their final practice of the week, Greg Reid stood under the hot September sun, leaning on his crutches to support his surgically repaired knee, unable to play the game he loves so much.
As his team begins practice, Reid makes his way into the shade to watch and talk with The Valdosta Daily Times about his plans of playing football next year and what it has been like to be a spectator this season.
Reid, the current Valdosta State Blazer, the former two-time Region 1-AAAAA Player of the Year with the Lowndes Vikings, and the former Florida State Seminole whose off-the-field issues cost him his Division I scholarship, is unable to play football this year due to a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). That doesn’t mean he is done playing football, though.
If anything, the setbacks during the past few months have made him stronger and more likely to succeed as a professional football player.
“It is very difficult, but I have to overcome this,” Reid said. “Missing a year of football, I feel like, is the thing that is going to get me to work harder.”
As for where he will play football next year, Reid said he hopes it will be in the National Football League, although he is open to returning to Valdosta State if the opportunity to play at the next level doesn’t present itself in 2013.
“I want to have a long career in the NFL,” Reid said. “If I have to take a redshirt I will, but if I feel ready I will take that chance.”
An opportunity at the NFL for Reid may not be too far off. Following his junior season with the Seminoles in 2011, Reid was a projected late second round or early third round draft pick. He chose to rejoin the Seminoles to help his draft stock. Instead, he was kicked off the team following a July arrest for driving on a suspended license and possession of marijuana in Valdosta that landed him in jail for the second time in less than a year.
By that time, Seminoles’ head coach Jimbo Fisher had seen enough and dismissed him from the team. Regardless, a career in the NFL hasn’t passed him completely by. Plenty of other college football players have cleaned up their acts for successful careers playing
professional football. Reid hopes to be one of these guys.
To get back on the field and prove his worth to NFL teams, Reid said he is rehabbing at the VSU athletic facilities with head athletic trainer Russ Hoff and graduate assistant Nick Long. He is working two hours a day, five days a week to regain strength in his knee.
To assess his NFL prospects for the upcoming April draft, Reid said he plans attending the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., this December to talk with various coaches and general managers.
“If I end up meeting the right people, maybe I can go down to talk with the coaches and not participate in the game,” Reid said. “Right now, I am just trying to deal with the right people, as in agent-wise, and just have the people to believe in me and get me ready.”
With the NCAA heavily watching over student-athletes’ relationships with agents, Reid said he is being careful and making sure returning to college to play his senior season is still an option.
“That is the goodness right here, I can still be eligible for another year of college,” Reid said.
If he does return to play his senior year of college football, it will be with the Blazers.
“Of course, this is the team I chose,” Reid said. “This is the team where I want to be.”
Still, Reid’s ultimate goal is to be cleared of his pending charges in Lowndes County and find his way on an NFL roster next year.
“I know I can be drafted and can play in the NFL,” said Reid, who was on the sidelines for VSU’s loss to West Alabama last weekend. “I know the talent that I have. The biggest question is my knee and my attitude and stuff like that. I know I can handle my attitude situation and just rehabbing and getting them to know me.”
Overall, Reid said the entire two months — from being booted from the Florida State football team following his arrest to joining the Blazers and being injured for the entire season — has been difficult, but a learning process that has taught him a lot.
“It is has been kind of hard,” said Reid, “not being with my team and stuff like that. That is kind of hard. On the weekends, I kind of go in my hole and watch the games myself and not have people talk to me and saying different things. It is tough, especially last weekend. Stuff happens and the only thing I am focused on now is getting back on the field to play.”
One of the toughest parts of the two months was initially realizing he was injured and unable to play this year. When the injury first happened during the Blazers’ final preseason scrimmage in late August (he was tackled on a punt return by the punter), Reid said he simply thought he tweaked his knee and that he didn’t have any structural damage. Even after his MRI results confirmed the tear and the need for reconstructive surgery, Reid said he had a hard time believing the news.
“Even after the MRI, I didn’t believe it at all,” Reid said. “It wasn’t until Russ started playing with my knee a little bit, like turning it and then turning my good knee over, I felt the rotation in the back of my knee, that is when I knew something wasn’t right.”
There is no denying a lot has changed in Reid’s life the past few months. One of the biggest differences, to Reid, has been his maturity.
“I had to mature a little bit,” he said. “The littlest thing didn’t slow me down one bit and now this is by far the most trouble I’ve been in, and the most anything has ever happened to me. But right now, it is just a blessing. Even though it is a cruel time right now, I thank God it wasn’t too late for him to make me realize what I had and what I have to do to be a better person.”
While Reid’s new team, Valdosta State, has already lost twice this year, his old team, Florida State, finds itself ranked inside the top five of every major Division I college football poll. When asked if his old team can end the Southeastern Conference’s run of six straight BCS national championships, Reid said “absolutely.”
“I know every guy on that team, so I know they have the potential,” Reid said. “They have a pretty good chance this year.”
While he may have been dismissed from the team, Reid said he is still a Florida State fan, and that he attended the Seminoles’ season opener against Murray State. Unable to gain access to the field, Reid sat in the stands, like a normal fan. “It was very different. It was very hot,” Reid laughed. “There are a lot of true fans that sit out there through the first quarter until the fourth quarter watching stuff like that. It was tough sitting out there.”
One major reason Reid still has love for Florida State is because of the fans. With more than 12,000 followers on Twitter, Reid said he has received overwhelming support from Florida State fans.“There can be cruel fans sometimes,” Reid said. “You are going to get that everywhere you go, but right now Florida State fans have been showing me a lot of support and they are sticking with me. They know I put a lot of work in, and even though I got dismissed, I put a lot of work in at FSU and I just want the best for the program. Those are the kind of people I look forward to meeting one day. I want to tell everybody thank you and that I am going to be OK.”
The road ahead of Reid isn’t an easy one. He still has the pending charges against him in Lowndes County, several long months of knee rehabilitation, a decision of whether to remain in college or make the leap to the NFL. But for now, Reid will focus on what he can control, working hard and getting back to playing the game he loves so much.