At the end of practice, Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin and staff members yell out the names of players who they need to talk to, normally about off-the-field issues like a player missing an appointment or slacking on their grades.
“So guys know at the end when you start calling out names, they think they’re in trouble,” Sumlin said.
Last week, Thomas Reid III had his name called. He and his teammates were in shock.
“Thomas doesn’t do anything wrong,” Sumlin joked. “The whole team is like ‘what is going on?’”
But this time it was good news, as Reid was awarded a scholarship.
“It was crazy, so it was good for him. It’s good for the team,” Sumlin said. “But he was confused first because he just does what he’s supposed to do.”
Reid is not an obvious scholarship candidate when you look at his numbers. He has just one catch and four career tackles. But his work on special teams, which can often be overlooked by the casual observer, is what led Sumlin to put him on scholarship.
“We have a production chart for special teams and it’s based on different things. Not just tackles, but right place right time, covering lanes, downing the ball inside the 10...and he was far and away last year the No. 1 most productive player on special teams,” Sumlin said.
“He’s a gunner, he’s covering kickoffs. He’s a four-phase guy. He’s a kickoff returner and punt returner And he doesn’t say anything. He just goes out and plays. So his value and worth on this team is big. It’s one of those things that does not really show up in a lot of stats besides maybe his tackles he makes on special teams. But what he does on special teams, a lot of times a player like he is is not the primary tackler. A lot of time he’s forcing things back to everybody, cutting off the wide-side of the field so a guy can’t get a big return. And he’s very unselfish, but he’s really good at what he does special teams-wise, and he takes a lot of pride in it.”
Sumlin said Reid was “overjoyed” when he learned he was on scholarship. Coming out of high school, Reid was committed to Hawaii as a scholarship player, before his offer was pulled due to an injury and coaching change.
That caused him to land at Arizona, where by all accounts he has done everything he can to shed the walk-on title.
“These guys that come and pay their own way and sometimes there’s situations where they wait till the last minute because they can’t afford to do things and enroll in classes and all the stress that comes with that,” Sumlin said. “To reward a guy like that, that doesn’t say anything, just comes and plays football and does what you ask him to do, is a great thing.”