STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State’s John Reid and DeAndre Thompkins ran back and forth in the far corner of Holuba Hall, the cornerback and wide receiver pushing one another following Penn State’s spring practice Wednesday night.
Reid, who missed all of last season with a knee injury sustained in April, continues knocking off the rust in an effort to return to the field better than he was when he last suited up for a game as a sophomore.
This John Reid — the one who spent countless hours in the Penn State training room in the last year as he celebrated the little victories of his rehab like not feeling soreness one day that would’ve slowed him the day before, or focusing on the gains he’s made that perhaps he wouldn’t have if he didn’t sit a year — said he’s getting comfortable by putting his body in otherwise uncomfortable situations.
“You still gotta knock the rust off of not playing football last year, reacting off somebody else, the technique part of corner,” Reid said. “But with the amount of reps and the extra work I’m doing it’s not going to take no time at all.”
The opposite end of the field where Reid jogged with Thompkins Wednesday night was where the cornerback made a cut, planted and felt his knee give out when he broke on the ball 12 months ago. Reid still prides himself on that cut, one where he thought he was going to make a pick but instead dealt with the first major injury of his career.
This John Reid can now smile about it as his journey back to the field has come full circle. The headset and khakis he sported last year as he traveled with the team and tried to help the younger cornerbacks get up to speed has since been traded in for a helmet and shoulder pads.
While the experience being on the headset helped him as he could hear the coaches explain why they’re doing what they’re doing, he’s also rediscovered the joy from the game that was taken away from him.
“He is a football junkie,” James Franklin said. “[Video director] Jevin [Stone] is able to look at the amount of film guys are watching and he’s like 100 hours ahead of anybody else in the program and he’s been that way since high school.”
For the player who spent one of his recruiting visits opting out of the prospect BBQ to instead watch film with then defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, returning to what he loves has been a highlight for both Reid and Penn State this spring.
“I feel better than I’ve ever been,” Reid said. “I’ve done exercises I’ve never done, just the strengthening part and everything like that. I feel better overall as an athlete. … And I can still play football and I feel like I’m going to play it at a way better level than I’ve ever played it before. I’m happy and I’m excited.”
Reid also returned to his duties as a punt return option this spring. While Thompkins, Mark Allen and KJ Hamler were also back there at the start of spring practice and Thompkins excelled there last season, Reid said he surprised himself with how quickly he picked up return duties.
Having watched Reid develop from a highly-touted recruit to an impact player as a freshman and sophomore, nothing has surprised Franklin when it comes to Reid. The player who spent last summer interning at Intel and who built his computer for college — complete with ideal specs for gaming — is ready to see what this next level is all about.
“I’m able to do stuff I feel like I’ve never been able to do before,” Reid said. “I’m comfortable with it.”