BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Garrett Reid walked out the double doors of the Cundey Varsity House about 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon. A tall, well-built redhead, Reid walked through those doors four times each day during the last two weeks at Eagles training camp. He didn't walk in on Sunday morning.
At 7:20 a.m., the Lehigh University police received a 911 call alerting them of an unresponsive male in one of the dormitories for players and team officials. Reid, son of longtime Eagles coach Andy Reid, was dead at 29.
The Garrett Reid that most of the public knew struggled with drug addictions and legal issues. The Garrett Reid known to those close to him was different. To them, he was lighthearted and gregarious and, according to an obituary released by the family, the "funniest person to all who knew and loved him."
"The way a lot of people view him and his brother is only based off the incidents they know about," said Donnie Williams, the 25-year-old son of Eagles running backs coach Ted Williams, who was friends with Garrett since 1999. "They don't know about how they were in school. They don't know about the jobs they had. They don't know about the relationships they had with people. They don't know the positive things they've done."
Williams first met Garrett Reid at a barbecue at the Reid family home soon after Andy Reid received the Eagles head coaching job in 1999. They became close during three consecutive winter vacations in Hawaii when the Eagles coaches oversaw the NFC Pro Bowl team. Williams was more than three years younger than Garrett Reid and could not yet drive. So he latched onto Reid and Reid's brother Britt. Garrett Reid accepted Williams almost like a little brother, Williams said.
They went to hotel swimming pools and watched the Hawaii surf. One time, they gave Patriots safety Rodney Harrison a ride around the island. Williams couldn't believe it. He was with his two older friends and an NFL star, riding around a sun-splashed island.
"I used to gravitate toward [Garrett Reid], and they kind of took me under their wing," Williams said of the brothers. "Garrett always looked out for me, made sure I had whatever I needed."
Taking after his father, Garrett Reid wanted to make sure Williams stayed out of trouble and did his schoolwork. The irony during that span is that Garrett Reid encountered his own private troubles, which soon became public.
On a January afternoon in 2007, Garrett Reid sped in an SUV in Plymouth Township, Montgomery County, with a police officer chasing him. He ran through a red light and into a sedan with a 55-year-old woman inside. Police spotted drug paraphernalia in Reid's car, and he admitted to using heroin before the accident. He also had a pellet gun and ammunition.
The incident proved to be just the tip of Garrett Reid's troubles, which had been ongoing since 2002. In a January 2008 interview with Philadelphia magazine, Andy Reid and his wife, Tammy, described the family's repeated efforts to clean up Garrett's life and said the low point was their 6-foot-4 son's dropping from 260 to 168 pounds, sapped of his energy and vigor. It came after Garrett's second visit to an inpatient rehabilitation center after he lived out of his car in Arizona and virtually halted all communication with his parents.
Garrett Reid moved back home but failed to eliminate his problems. A presentence investigation on the 2007 charges revealed that Reid dealt drugs in North Philadelphia and on the Main Line. He also went on to conceal 89 pills in his rectum on the morning of his sentencing and faced additional charges of smuggling contraband. The jarring revelations bruised the family's image, particularly when Judge Steven O'Neill labeled the Reids "a family in crisis" and compared the Reids' Main Line home to a "drug emporium." Garrett Reid was sentenced to 23 months in prison and failed a drug test again in 2009.
But it seemed as if Garrett Reid had started to take control of his life in recent years. He worked with the Eagles' strength and conditioning department and planned to study sports management this autumn, according to the obituary.
The first time Williams saw Garrett Reid after Reid's incarceration was 2010. He heard about the daily struggle that Reid endured. He last saw Reid in the Eagles locker room after the 2011 season finale on New Year's Day. Williams' prevailing thought was that Reid had turned himself into a man, stabilized and secure.
"From then to now, he was on top of his business," Williams said. "He was doing everything he needed to do. He was helping out with the team, so he was constantly around a good support group. I think that was a big thing. And there were so many people around him that wanted him to do better and succeed."
Williams awoke on Sunday to missed phone calls and text messages. He called his sister, and she told him: "Garrett passed away this morning at training camp." After a moment of processing the information, Williams said he burst into tears in his Columbia, S.C., home. He browsed the Internet searching for more information. "Everything was going great for him," Williams said. He was hoping to see Reid during the Eagles' preseason.
Williams could empathize with Reid about being a coach's son, but he knew the spotlight associated with being the head coach's son was different. It was especially the case in Philadelphia, where the Reid children were often on the sideline and resembled their famous father.
That was always a responsibility for Garrett Reid, and particularly during the most troubling period of his life. "I don't want to be that kid who was the son of the head coach of the Eagles, who was spoiled and on drugs and OD'd and just faded into oblivion," Garrett said in a 2007 presentencing report. Williams hoped that the public would not focus on Garrett Reid's troubling period when remembering a life lost too soon.
"If they take time to get to know him," Williams said, "the good definitely outweighs the bad."
Reid Services Set for Tuesday
Funeral services for Garrett Reid are scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 721 Paxon Hollow Road, Broomall, Pa.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to: Laurel House, P.O. Box 764, Norristown, Pa. 19404