CHICAGO — John Reid says being “consistent with who I am” is the main principle in his life. That includes the work and attention he throws into two major elements of it: football and his study of computer-related fields at Penn State.
Reid, the Nittany Lions’ fifth-year senior cornerback from St. Joseph’s Prep, is well-known for devoting hours of study to his sport going back to visits before and after he committed to the Lions, when he would study film and pick the brains of his future coaches rather than sample campus nightlife.
That same attention to detail has gone into his education. Reid is a data sciences major with a focus on coding and improving software.
The demands of football and a tough curriculum in Penn State’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science would appear to be an overwhelming load, but that doesn’t bother Reid, a Mount Laurel resident who is on track to graduate in December.
“It’s just like anything: You put the time into it, and then it all ends up working out if you work hard enough,” he said Friday at the Big Ten’s football media days. “It’s kind of the approach I took. With football, I’m just used to putting in a ton of hours to do stuff. If I want to be good at something, I want to be good at it, period. I don’t expect anything less, so I kind of put the time in.”
“I wouldn’t call it sacrifice. Usually when you think of sacrifice, it almost gets a bad vibe to it. I think it’s necessary. It’s something that I wanted to do. I’m going to make it a priority.
"I still have time to play the game. I still have time to put in a bunch of other stuff. It’s just that I give a lot of time to other things that maybe other people probably don’t.”
That dedication was necessary when Reid began classes at Penn State. He was the first person in his family to attend college, and he entered with some misconceptions.
“I thought when you go to college, you just basically study what you want to,” he said. “I didn’t think you had to do much else. I know that sounds funny, but that’s just the reality.
"I came in here not really ready for the math classes at all. I only had taken up to Algebra II and geometry in high school. I think I had taken trig [trigonometry] and stuff, but I had never taken calculus or physics, so I had to kind of teach myself those things in college.”
It was difficult for Reid, but he pulled through, finding a way with studies the same as with football.
“You can teach yourself to code,” he said. “You don’t really need a classroom, so you can just apply yourself out of class to learn it. I can do that with a lot of things.
"It’s like with football. You can get really good at football just during practice, but you can’t be extremely good or great at football by just doing practice. You’ve got to do extra. So that’s pretty much the same approach I take” with his studies.
The approach has helped Reid. He earned an internship in 2017 in Portland, Ore., with Intel, working in its data center engineering group, and spent eight weeks this spring and summer interning at Blizzard Entertainment, a video game developer and publisher based in Irvine, Calif., that accepted 70 interns out of “thousands of people that applied,” Reid said.
He also works in a lab at Penn State with computer scientists.
“Even though I’m not in computer science,” he said, “everybody knows I do software. I kind of have an ‘in’ there, so it’s been really good.”
Reid’s love of video games while growing up in South Jersey led to a fascination with computers. When Reid was a student at the Prep, he and his uncle built a computer from scratch, and he continues to upgrade it every year.
Reid these days is serious about video games, an attribute exhibited Thursday after he arrived in Chicago with teammates Cam Brown and Blake Gillikin. While Brown and Gillikin walked around discovering the city, Reid was in his room awaiting new content for World of Warcraft, a popular online game.
He also said the trio of himself, Brown, and Shaka Toney, a defensive end who played in high school at Imhotep Charter, is proficient at Apex Legends, a “battle royale” game, and will take on all comers.
“We’ve got the best squad,” he said. “When we play Apex, it’s a guaranteed ‘W,’ no matter what time.”
The real games — football — will begin Aug. 31, with Reid expected to add to his 27 career starts at corner. After sitting out the entire 2017 season recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, he came back to earn honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors last year.
He said that his rehab was “100 percent a mental thing” and that staying positive and being surrounded by a good support group led to its success. It’s all a part of how he lives his life.