Ask Eric Reid how he can match his father’s legacy at LSU, and the exchange that follows makes two things clear.
First, it’ll be a tall task. After all, Eric Reid Sr. notched a national title in the 110-meter hurdles in 1987, set a school record that lasted for 23 years and is enshrined in the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
Second, Reid spends a lot of time listening to his father. Before the Tigers’ starting safety can finish the first sentence of his answer, Senior jumps in.
“Win a national championship,” he says with a laugh.
When Reid responds that a title for the football team wouldn’t equal an individual one, his dad is ready with a solution.
“Well you can train to be the best safety in the nation,” Reid Sr. said. “That’s what I look at. You can only do what you can do.”
Being the best on and off the field is a mission that Reid Sr. and his wife, Sharon, demanded from their three sons from an early age. That discipline has benefitted all three, but the biggest impact can be seen in Eric Jr., who has followed his father’s wisdom to success on the gridiron, in the classroom, and in his own journey to fatherhood.
As he prepares for his junior season, Reid has both a college degree and million-dollar NFL contract within reach, as well as a blueprint for how to raise his young daughter.
The Reid way
As a kid in the Reid household, the rules were set in stone.
No TV, no sports, no nothing until homework was done.
When one of the sons failed to turn in a report and received a zero, Eric Sr. made him write it anyway, then graded it himself. The first attempt wasn’t to his liking, so he made him re-write it and submit it to his teacher, even though he wouldn’t receive credit. Eric Jr. is quick to say that wasn’t him, but he learned the same lesson.
“Get your work done the first time, that’s always the easiest,” he said.
Reid applied that mentality to books and football, posting a 4.46 grade-point average at Dutchtown High, finishing sixth in his class and playing well enough to earn scholarship offers from a slew of colleges.
LSU — where he’d joined his father for training trips to the track as a 1-year-old — was the only one that mattered, and he signed with the Tigers despite his parents urging him to consider others.
Once on campus, he kept that disciplined approach.
Good thing, too, because he was never far from his father’s eye.
As an assistant director for LSU’s Office of Parking, Traffic and Transportation, where he has worked for 23 years, Eric Sr. reports to work just across the street from Tiger Stadium.
The senior Reid gave his son space, showing up at the occasional practice and keeping in touch, but that didn’t mean he was softening his parenting approach.
For instance, take the two parking tickets Reid has received as a student.
“And what’d I tell you?” Eric Sr. asks his son.
“That I had to pay for it,” comes the reply.
The upbringing was tough at times, but it was all part of a plan.
The lessons of putting work first and accepting consequences of decisions paid dividends in academics and athletics.
Beyond Eric Jr., Ryan Reid is headed to play soccer at Maryland, and Justin Reid is focusing on football at Dutchtown High. All have maintained gpas around 4.0 or above in high school.
“How would you be the best athlete you could be? By practicing more and doing things no one else is. It’s the same thing with education,” Reid Sr. says. “If you know what it takes to be the best athlete, you should be one of the best students, too. All my kids are showing you can be a top student and top athlete at one time. It doesn’t have to be either-or.”
Eric Jr. may have backed off the homework-before-everything policy in college, but he hasn’t strayed far. He’s on pace to graduate with a marketing degree in December, leaving him in a position to potentially leave early for a career in the NFL (he’s projected as a first-round draft pick) with his degree in hand.
“I hated it growing up,” Reid Jr. said. “It was hard because you want to play, hang out with your friends and not do your schoolwork. They say the older you get, the wiser your parents get. The farther along in life I get, the more I appreciate what he did growing up because I can see everything he said coming true.”
Two proud fathers
There is one thing Reid Sr. hopes for above all else.
“That they raise their kids like I raised them,” he says, calling it a “domino effect.”
The first domino tipped nearly three years ago, when Eric Jr.’s daughter, Leilani, was born.
The first night out of the hospital, Leilani stayed with Eric Jr.
“I asked him, ‘How’d you sleep last night?’ ” Eric Sr. recalls. “He said, ‘She slept good,’ and I said, ‘That’s not the question. How did you sleep?’ He said he didn’t sleep too much, and I said, ‘welcome to parenthood.’ ”
Since then, Leilani has split time between Eric Jr., his girlfriend and his parents, with Reid’s busy schedule as a student-athlete keeping him from taking her full-time.
But he sees her as often as possible during his free time, and he can’t speak about his daughter without cracking a warm, wide smile.
“When I walk into the house and she sees me, she always comes running up screaming ‘Daddy!’ and jumps into my arms,” he said. “That warms your heart as a father, and that’s the best part to me.”
For Leilani’s third birthday this month, Eric Jr. is planning a pool party — “She’s a little fish” — and he often posts pictures of his daughter on Twitter, including the pair riding a motorcycle in an arcade game.
So how strict is he as a father?
“She has me wrapped around her little fingers,” he said. “I’ll be easier on her, but that’s only in certain areas. It’ll be the same thing with school or if she plays a sport. I’m going to do my best to raise her like I was raised.”
By that measure, Eric Sr. says he has no doubt his son will succeed, and he’s proud of Eric Jr.’s work so far. As far as following in his footsteps at LSU, well, that’s still up in the air.
“I tell my kids whatever you do, you have to leave a legacy,” he said. “When you get into athletics or class, you have to leave something where people say, ‘He’s been here, look what he has done.’ ”
Reid Sr. left his legacy, and his son is doing his best to match it, partly by changing the view from his father’s office. Look over Eric Sr.’s shoulder and out the window, and you get a view of the back of the Tiger Stadium scoreboard, which lists the team’s national titles.
Reid Jr. gave the Tigers a big leg up on their quest to another one in 2011, making a crucial fourth-quarter interception near the goal line in a regular-season win against Alabama.
Though the title bid fell short, he’s determined to change that this year, and he’s also aiming for a spot in the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame next to his father, which would make them a rare father-son duo similar to track’s Glenn and William Hardin.
Before that mission gets underway, he’ll be content to spend Father’s Day with Leilani.
Eric Sr. will be out of town for a tournament with one of his other sons, but the separation won’t matter. He already has the perfect Father’s Day.
“As long as they take care of what they’re supposed to take care of and handle their business,” he said, “that’s Father’s Day for me.”