Two themes stand out about D.J. Reed and Jordan Whitehead coming to the Jets' secondary as unrestricted free agents last week. One is that they both bring with them success and production from their previous teams. Another is that they're both tough as nails.
We'll detail some of Whitehead's traits in the coming days. Meanwhile, here four things to know about how tough Reed is.
Reed's Mom Is a Survivor
Reed got a lot of his resilience from his mother, Linda, a single mom who found out when D.J. was in seventh grade that she had congenital heart disease, then six months later was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. When told of her heart condition, she explained to her doctors that she couldn't be hospitalized because she had three kids to raise. When she was going through chemotherapy, she would get out of bed in the late afternoon and greet her kids home from school with what energy and smiles she could muster.
Linda was declared cancer-free after her chemo and radiation therapies. How did she get through it all?
"Life is going to be what it is," she explained on sfchronicle.com. "You will have highs and you will have lows, but what separates people is the determination to survive and get through it. And that's what we've done. We've been survivors all our lives, and our faith in God is our foundation: We believe."
D.J. Stands Tall
Reed spent time at three colleges — Fresno State, Cerritos College and finally Kansas State. What many may not know is why he went from being a walk-on at an FBS school to a community college transfer. Neither he nor his mom could afford a second year at Fresno. He slept on the floor of a crowded college apartment, ate poorly if at all, and nurtured himself with the dream that he could play in the Power Five and ultimately in the NFL.
"I was like, I'm a 5-9 corner, so I want to go in a conference where I'm playing elite competition," Reed said of turning down a scholarship offer from Indiana State, then quickly getting another offer from K-State of the Big 12. "So when I get to the NFL combine, they can't say, 'Oh, he's too small, he didn't play against anybody.' K-State was the first big school to offer me, and they were in the Big 12. So if you're good, it's going to be obvious that you're good. And if you're not, it's going to show that, too."
'He'll Have Longevity in the League'
Reed's football skills and especially his intangibles were obvious to many talent evaluators on his way to the Jets. For instance, John Lynch, the 49ers' GM heading toward the 2018 draft, said of Reed, "He's made of the right stuff, man."
And Robert Saleh, now the Jets HC but then the Niners DC, shortly after having Reed added to his defensive stable: "D.J. is relentless. He fights his tail off. He's taking this opportunity and absolutely running with it."
Bill Snyder, Reed's KSU coach and a College Football Hall of Famer put it all in perspective: "There will be more talented people around here than D.J., but it's all his other qualities that will keep him in the NFL. He'll have longevity in the league, I'm quite certain."
Three Words to Live By
Reed is beginning his fifth pro season and his first as a Jet. Besides his on-field talents, he's got some off-field business smarts as well, having started up his own merchandise Web site, djreed2.com. He markets tees, sweatshirts, hats and mugs, and one feature of the merch is the slogan on them.
"D.J.'s journey to the NFL shows true patience and trust in the process," the patter on his site reads, "which is why he lives by the phrase, In Due Time.