UNIVERSITY PARK — John Reid hasn’t changed much since Penn State coach James Franklin encountered him as a recruit.
Business-like. Mature. Still obsessed with watching film.
“Not too many high school players that, while you’re having a recruiting barbecue, they’re up watching tape,” Franklin said after practice Wednesday. “There’s not too many guys we have on our team that don’t really go out [and instead] they hang out with their girlfriend or study.”
That concentration has helped the sophomore cornerback this season. He has started all five games this year, amassing 17 total tackles, including nine solo ones and one for a loss of 5 yards, as well as two passes defended, an interception, a fumble recovery, a pass breakup and an assist on a sack.
Reid has also taken on the punt returning job, returning 15 for 117 yards, with the longest return at 59 yards.
“He’s obviously a gifted and talented player,” junior cornerback Grant Haley said. “He’s a leader. He leads by example, and sometimes when necessary, he’ll even speak up. But I think he’s done a great job. You can see he’s feeling comfortable out there and confident. He’s played a lot of football for us. He’s not a young guy anymore. We rely on him in the back end. He’s just done a great job accepting that role and running with it.”
Reid stays after practice daily to put in extra work, usually with help from the equipment managers. He said one of his friends from high school, Olamide Zaccheaus, has experience on punts for Virginia, and Reid talked to him about how he felt like he could help Penn State in that area. Zaccheaus’ response: “Go out there and do it.”
And Reid took that advice, but he probably watched a little — well, a lot — of film first. Reid said he doesn’t have cable hooked up in his room since he has been at Penn State, so he really only watches “film, football and some Netflix or an HBO show.” Makes sense, since he actually only has a computer monitor instead of a regular TV.
The computer monitor is also telling, as Reid is a computer science major who has built computers in his free time in the past.
While he hasn’t built a new machine recently, he has become more interested in software, participating in research this summer with Microsystems Design Laboratory at Penn State. Reid attempted to explain how his research was in machine learning and convolutional neural networks, a sort of wider view on artificial intelligence, where the team worked on making a computer recognize human joints. To anyone who isn’t familiar with computer science and engineering, it probably seemed like gibberish.
But for Reid, working on these complex topics has taught him to notice the intricacies, which has aided him in school and in his sport.
“I’ve never been around so many smart people, such high-intelligence people, guys with different outlooks on everything. That was a really great experience for me,” Reid said. “And I think the things I’m able to pick up from the computer science, the attention to detail, has been able to help me on the field with my focus and attention to detail and knowing how important the little things are in something. Just like how in football, if you mess up the little things, it becomes a big deal. If you mess up the little things in computer science when you’re coding … it can be a big problem.”