INDIANAPOLIS — Justin Reid has no idea what to expect when he walks into a room to hold a formal interview with a team at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Players are not alerted to who will be present for these 20-minute formal sessions, so the Stanford safety prospect was slightly taken aback when he walked into New England’s interview room Friday night and saw someone who has been patrolling the Patriots’ sideline for most of his 21 years on earth.
The New England Patriots dedicated multiple Belichicks for their formal interview with Reid, who’s projected as a first- or second-round pick. Head coach Bill Belichick and safeties coach Steve Belichick (Bill’s son) both sat in for the session.
“It’s like, you walk into the room, and it’s like, ‘Ah, Coach Belichick is here.’ It’s an awesome feeling to have the head coach,” Reid said.
Reid, whose brother is a San Francisco 49ers free-agent safety, loves these interviews. He has 20 formals planned, and he cherishes every one, because it means talking football. Reid doesn’t just talk like a Patriots player. He talks like a Patriots coach. Here’s his answer when asked about preparing for opposing offenses.
“Well we game plan teams heavily,” Reid said. “So, first and foremost, we do personnels and matchups. We see what type of formations they have. ‘What are their favorite plays?’ Because first and foremost, we’re going to take their favorite plays first and we want to match our favorite defenses to their favorite plays and get that out of the way right away. Then we start getting into their personnel grouping and the personality of that. ‘What was the quarterback reading? Who does he like to throw the ball to? Who’s his favorite receiver? What do they typically do on first-and-10? What do they do on third-and-3? What’s their run-down formation? Is it third-and-2? Is it third-and-3?’ Then we get into these formations and tendencies. That way you have an idea of what offense is going to be playing what defense.”
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound prospect also prepares like a Patriot. Patriots defensive captains Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower are noted for their ability to detail every defender’s responsibility on a given play. This helps give them versatility. It also allows them to line up their teammates in no-huddle or if the offense audibles.
“For 12 of our base coverages at Stanford, I can draw every single person,” Reid said. “I can draw all 11 characters on the field and what each of their responsibilities are. I pride myself on being able to do that. It’s fun. I talk ball with my coaches all the time back at Stanford, with other players. I love to teach the young guys in the program just to make them better.”
Reid needs to know all of those responsibilities because of his own versatility. He played seven different positions during his time at Stanford — right cornerback, left cornerback, strong safety, free safety, nickel, dime and outside linebacker.
Reid said he could see himself as a coach after his playing days are over. He could probably do it now.
So, how was the interview with the Patriots?
“It was cool. I know they heard about kind of how intelligent of a player I am, so they wanted to quiz me to see what I knew,” Reid said. “They brought up some film and asked me what I was doing in this coverage, what were some of the linebackers doing in the coverage. What I was thinking, what I saw, some formation alerts, some formation tendencies, things like that. Just to get a feel for how I saw the defense, and I feel like I left an impression.”
Bill Belichick also left a strong first impression on Reid.
“He’s a totally different guy that he is (in front of the media),” Reid said. “He’s actually a really, really good guy.”
Safety isn’t the Patriots’ biggest need in the draft, but McCourty and Patrick Chung are both in their 30s. It would be valuable to inject some youth into the Patriots’ defensive backfield, and New England needs a player to replace another Stanford alum, Jordan Richards, as the team’s No. 4 safety.