By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Ryan Reid probably isn’t on Mel Kiper’s “Big Board.” He hasn’t been invited to any of the postseason all-star games, and he might not even get drafted.
But, it doesn’t keep him from dreaming.
“It’s still a dream, still a goal,” said the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Reid, a fifth-year senior cornerback who ranks third on Baylor’s team with 34 career starts. “Like I told my mom the other day, I don’t even care if I get drafted or not. I just want the opportunity to show somebody that I can play football at the next level, show somebody the type of player I am. I don’t even care where I play. Just me out there, and I’ll do my best to make your roster.”
That’s the way he was at Sherman High School. Coach Gary Joe Kinne, a former Baylor linebacker (1986-89), never found anything that Reid couldn’t do in his two years at the school.
Not only did he play both cornerback and safety on defense, he was a receiver and wildcat quarterback on offense, returned kicks and even kicked extra points.
“We had to have him so much on defense, we couldn’t get him in the game as much as we wanted on offense,” said Kinne, who returned to Baylor as an assistant coach under Guy Morriss. “But, during important times in the playoffs, he played both ways.”
Reid is like that annoying Little League baseball player tugging on his coach’s arm, “Just put me in, coach.”
“I always just say, ‘Put me anywhere,’’’ he said. “That’s just how I’ve always been. I don’t care if I have to sit around and block for somebody, I just want to play football.”
And while he believes he “could have done a lot more” than just play cornerback at Baylor, Reid says, “I feel good about what we’ve done and how everything’s gone.”
Growing up in the South Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas, where trouble was always just around the corner, “the one thing we always did was play sports.”
“After football practice, I’d come home, and everybody would be out there playing basketball till 10 or 11 o’clock. Or, we would just go to this open field by the apartments and play tackle football,” he said.
After two years at South Oak Cliff, where Reid played football and ran track, his mother moved back to her hometown of Sherman to keep him safe and give Ryan a better chance at a college scholarship.
“It was tough at first, but I understood that it was a business move,” he said.
A single mom raising two boys, Tracy Bryant told Ryan, “This is where you can focus and see more in life than hanging out on a corner and doing nothing.”
With his family moving to Sherman in April, Ryan got a chance to run track that spring and then play receiver on the 7-on-7 football team in the summer, “and we were just like going off,” he said.
“You never know how a transfer will fit in, but he was a natural fit and a great kid,” Kinne said. “He was a leader who got along with everybody.”
An honorable mention all-state pick for Sherman’s 10-4 region finalist team as a senior in 2011, Reid attracted recruiting attention from Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Vanderbilt and Arizona State.
But, he was interested in turning a program around, not just going to a “traditional school that already had a bunch of history.”
“It was just Corey (Coleman) and Jamal (Palmer) hitting me up and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go. Let’s just all go to Baylor and change the program,’’’ he said.
Only nine players off that 2012 signing class are still around, including fellow defensive starters Aiavion Edwards and Patrick Levels. But, they were part of back-to-back Big 12 championships in 2013-14 and will make a school-record seventh consecutive bowl game appearance when the Bears (6-6) face Boise State (10-2) in Tuesday’s Cactus Bowl in Phoenix, Ariz.
“I knew we could do it, just from playing behind the people we were playing behind,” Reid said of winning the Big 12 titles. “They didn’t even have the same amount of talent my class did, they just had the will and the want-to. And they had come up just a little short in 2011 and 2012, so I knew we could do it. Man, it was magical.”
After learning the ropes at cornerback under K.J. Morton, Joe Williams and Demetri “Meech” Goodson, now in his third year with the Green Bay Packers, Reid moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore, With current Miami Dolphins rookie corner Xavien Howard on the other side, Reid became a favorite target for offenses to attack.
“It hurt me, because it hurt the team,” Reid said of getting burned by the deep ball. “That’s the only thing I really thought about. We’re trying to win this game, and I gave up this play. That’s the only reason I was mad at myself, because I’m letting the team down. And that’s not what I wanted to do.”
Perhaps no game defines Reid’s career any better than Baylor’s 61-58 win over TCU in 2014. Burned by receiver Kolby Listenbee twice in the first seven minutes of the game, Reid was also flagged for holding, pass interference and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
But, he bounced back to break up five passes, including a critical fourth-down pass to first-round NFL Draft pick Josh Doctson that helped the Bears rally from a 21-point second-half deficit.
“(Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett) was getting ready to explode. And I just kept telling him, ‘I’ve got this. I’ve got this,’’’ Reid said. “On that last play, (Doctson) looked back and I just looked over my shoulder. And I was just like, ‘No!’ I didn’t care how it came down, I was just like, ‘No!’ The atmosphere that whole game was just unbelievable.”
This year, with Howard gone, Reid was the Bears’ only cornerback with any significant playing experience. Not only has he stepped up his own game, making three interceptions and seven pass breakups to earn honorable mention All-Big 12 honors, he’s also tutored a young group that includes sophomore Verkedric Vaughns and freshmen Jameson Houston and Grayland Arnold.
“Ryan is a proven leader, on and off the field,” cornerbacks coach Carlton Buckels said. “He makes those around him better. He is very instrumental in the development of the younger players. He is a good football player and an even better young man.”
An avid people watcher most of his life, Reid has also become a better student of the game, poring over game videos to pick up receivers’ tendencies.
“When I’m out there, in my head, I’m saying, ‘Just play your technique,’’’ he said. “I’m just out there trying to do the little things, because I feel like if you just slow game down yourself, you’ll have a better time out there and you’ll play faster.”
Ryan graduated in May 2016 with a degree in corporate communication studies – the first person in his family to earn a four-year degree – and eventually wants to work on a master’s in medical administration. His mom is a nurse’s assistant in Dallas.
“I know school’s not cheap or free anymore, now that it’s on my own dime,” he said. “But, I promised my mom that, so I’m going to do what I can with it.”
As for the NFL dream, he says, “I’m just not going to worry about it. If it’s God’s plan for me to go, it’s for me to go.”
CACTUS BOWL NOTES: The Bears went through their third bowl-site practice on Christmas Day, working out at Arizona State’s indoor facility in Tempe. Sophomore running back Terence Williams donned the Superman costume with red cape that he wore on Thursday’s flight to Phoenix. . . . With fifth-year senior Shock Linwood opting to skip the bowl game to prepare for the 2017 NFL Draft, redshirt freshman Tony Nicholson will back up Williams and redshirt freshman JaMycal Hasty at running back. “With (Williams) banged up and JaMyc banged up for a little while, we moved Tony I’m going to say with maybe three weeks to go to running back and we’ve kept him there,” interim head coach Jim Grobe said. “So, that gives us a little bit of depth.” . . . Redshirt freshman receiver Blake Lynch has also taken some snaps at running back, rushing for 80 yards on 12 carries, but he will miss Tuesday’s game with a broken finger on his right hand. “We had hoped to have Blake Lynch back. In fact, (trainer) Mike Sims thought that would be the case. But, the finger hasn’t healed well enough. And being a receiver, you better be able to go catch the football. I think if we were playing him at about any other position, he’d be OK, because we would just cast him up and let him play,” Grobe said. . . . Monday will be the official Media Day session for the Cactus Bowl, with Grobe and Reid joined by defensive end K.J. Smith, linebacker Aiavion Edwards, quarterback Zach Smith, center Kyle Fuller and tight end Jordan Feuerbacher.