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Eric Reid makes epic journey from Dutchtown to LSU to the NFL draft

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Eric Reid training at IMG Academy

It’s 1,365 miles from Dutchtown High School in Geismar to Radio City Music Hall in New York.

For Eric Reid, the lengthy journey started with a single step from one side of the ball to the other, thanks to a former teammate who became a foe who helped him make up his mind.

“The first time I decided football was going to be my sport I was 14-years-old going into high school,” Reid said. “I thought I would be a running back, but Eddie Lacy was there. He’s the reason I switched to safety.”

Lacy, who went to start at running back at Alabama, may or may not be a first-round draft selection Thursday, depending which of a mountain of mock drafts you choose to consider.

But with Reid, there is less debate. A number of projections see him going anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second. Several have the former LSU free safety hovering around the 21st or 22nd pick, selections belonging to the Cincinnati Bengals and St. Louis Rams, respectively.

“I don’t have a clue,” Reid said of his NFL destination.

He does have a strong sense of where he’s been.

Since his announcement back on Jan. 4 that he would be one of 11 LSU players declaring early for the NFL draft, Reid’s spring has been a frenetic one. The season of change from college to NFL will likely come to a dramatic conclusion Thursday with the first round of the NFL draft (7 p.m., ESPN and the NFL Network).

Reid actually started interviewing agents before his announcement to go pro (it’s permitted as long as the student-athlete doesn’t sign a contract). He eventually settled on Jimmy Sexton, well known in these parts as Nick Saban’s agent who brokered the deal that got him to LSU. Sexton had his own firm but now works with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the famous entertainment and sports management firm.

Even before submitting his paperwork to enter the draft, Reid headed to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to prepare for the NFL Combine with 41 other pro prospects in IMG’s NFL Draft Training Program.

It was there he worked with former LSU track and field coach Loren Seagrave on speed and agility and on his defensive backs skills with former Saints cornerback Michael Hawthorne.

Reid and Hargrove had an instant rapport, which Hawthorne said was borne out of Reid’s desire to improve.

“He was like a dream to work with,” said Hawthorne, who played for the Saints from 2000-04.

“You can come in with a lot of hype, a lot of this, a lot of that, and that usually brings a lot of attitude. But Eric was very humble, a student willing to learn. That was a pleasure for me, because it showed he’s serious about this next step in his life.”

From Florida, it was off to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.

That was followed by a series of workouts at the training facilities of the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, New York Jets and Cincinnati.

He worked out for a number of other teams, including the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, at LSU.

“I was so busy,” Reid said. “I was tired of being in airports and on planes. But it’s part of the opportunity I’m fortunate to have.”

A trip back to the IMG Academy to work with Hawthorne and Seagrave preceded a return to LSU for its March 27 Pro Day.

At IMG, Reid worked on conditioning, nutrition, foot, hip and hand-eye coordination, even media interview training sessions.

“If he didn’t get it right, he wanted to do it over and over and over,” Hawthorne said. “I didn’t have to tell him. He would drill himself.”

Though a career safety, Hawthorne said he is confident Reid has the skills to even be a cornerback now.

“The more you can do, the more valuable you are” to an NFL team, Hawthorne said. “Eric will have the skill set to play a lot of man-to-man coverage.”

LSU coach Les Miles said whichever team drafts Reid will be getting a lot of value for their investment.

“You’ve got a guy who runs well, is bright as a whip and can line up your defense and your secondary,” Miles said.

“He understands everyone has an adjustment and he’ll know it inside-out.

“He’s a physical player with great ball skills. I don’t know how you’re not excited about Eric Reid.”

The excitement will be palpable for Team Reid in New York on Thursday.

Eric Reid Sr., a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame who won the 1987 NCAA 110-meter hurdles under Seagrave, said as many as 17 family members will travel there to await Eric Jr.’s selection.

“I’ll probably be nervous Thursday,” Reid said. “I’ll just be sitting in the green room, waiting.”

Waiting, and perhaps remembering the steps that took him from obscurity at Dutchtown to LSU to a chance to walk across the big stage at Radio City.

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