Aug. 9, 2023
With the health of athletes in his hands, VCU alum Jerome Reid is an NFL star outside the spotlight
Senior trainer for the Philadelphia Eagles followed a path of perseverance to reach the pros.
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The moment Jerome Reid, senior athletic trainer for the Philadelphia Eagles, ran out of the tunnel into the stadium in Glendale, Arizona, this past February at Super Bowl LVII, it hit him that his team had reached the pinnacle, a glory coveted throughout the NFL.
“I saw my wife, Nicole, and our kids in the stands. It was a happy, joyous moment,” said Reid, a two-time graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and exercise science and a master’s degree in health and movement sciences from the College of Humanities and Sciences’ Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences.
As much as he wanted to treat Super Bowl week the same as any other week during the season, there was nothing regular about it for Reid.
Last season was the healthiest season regarding player injuries in Reid’s five-year career with the Eagles. Every starter on the roster “week one was starting in the Super Bowl, and that is an accomplishment by the entire staff. That typically doesn’t happen,” he said.
At the end of the night, the Eagles fell 38-35 to the Kansas City Chiefs, dashing the hope of Super Bowl glory. While the loss was disappointing, Reid was proud of the players and their effort during the season.
“You see the tears in their eyes, and you try to bring them up,” he said.
The NFL has many skilled clinicians, but what “separates Jerome is his ability to connect with the athletes and reassure them,” said Tom Hunkele, vice president of sports medicine for the Eagles. “When they come to him, they know he’s going to be able to get them to be where they need to be.”
Personal setback revealed an opportunity
A native of Petersburg, Reid dislocated his shoulder playing football and throwing the discus with the track team Petersburg High School. After two surgeries, he had to come to terms with the fact that a future playing football wasn’t going to materialize.
Albeit a difficult time for him, it introduced him to an entirely different endeavor — physical therapy. During his rehabilitation, Reid had the chance to shadow his physical therapist, and he was intrigued enough to envision a career in the field.At VCU, though, he discovered that programs for physical therapy nationwide were transitioning to require doctoral degrees. So once again, Reid pivoted, this time to athletic training.
“I knew I wanted to be an athletic trainer after my first Intro to Athletic Training course,” he said, adding he met his wife, also a VCU alum, at the university.
During his junior year, Reid started his clinical rotation with preceptor Chris Jones in the football program at University of Richmond. He followed that semester by working with UR baseball as well as women’s basketball.
A year before earning his undergraduate degree in 2006, Reid applied for an NFL scholarship and was selected by the Tennessee Titans for its 2005 Minority Scholarship for Athletic Training. Through his preseason internship, he “fell in love with the league,” he said.
During graduate school, Reid worked at George Wythe High School as its athletic trainer through a partnership with VCU, and he completed three more internships with the Titans.
Before earning his master’s in 2008, Reid sat down one day and looked up the phone number for the head athletic trainer of each NFL team.
“I called and talked to whomever answered the phone,” he said. “I asked them about internships.”
His diligence paid off. Two teams — the Miami Dolphins and the Atlanta Falcons — offered him internships. Reid chose the Dolphins, serving as the team’s athletic trainer intern during the 2008-09 season. That year was an eye-opening welcome to the NFL.
“You don’t know what it takes — the time and labor commitment — until you spend a season in the NFL,” Reid said.
He was responsible for setting up the practice fields and setting up for games, as well as packing trunks and rehab equipment. Most days he would get to work at 5 a.m. and leave around 9 p.m.
“There are no days off during the season. Some people think that is crazy, but that is everyday operations in the NFL. You have to be OK with that because you can get burned out,” Reid said.
After his internship with the Dolphins, Reid returned to Virginia and worked at Sentara CarePlex Hospital in Hampton, splitting his time between the physical therapy clinic and serving as athletic trainer for Hampton High School. Although he was still associated with sports, it wasn’t “the population I wanted to work with,” he said.
Reid made it back into the NFL when the Tennessee Titans called about an open position. He officially worked for Saint Thomas Hospital, but he assisted the Titans staff and “got to fine-tune my craft of rehabbing players,” he said.
In 2014, the Titans brought in Todd Toriscelli as the new head athletic trainer and hired Reid as an assistant athletic trainer.
“Todd took me under his wing to teach me even more as to what it takes to be a leader in the field,” said Reid, who was selected as the Joe Warden Professional Athletic Trainer of the Year by the Tennessee Athletic Trainers' Society in 2017. “I wanted to be master of everything. He got me to narrow down my focus and focus on what it takes to get the players better.”
Reid stayed with the Titans until 2018, when he was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles as head athletic trainer. In 2020, his title transitioned to senior athletic trainer.
Long days and a deep commitment to players
Reid’s primary role, going into his sixth season with Philadelphia, is to work with players who are injured or need rehab. He also is heavily involved with NFL Scouting Combine and non-combine evaluations, at which college athletes are assessed on medical and physical criteria.
Reid has a “great way about him with the players, especially his ability to listen to the players,” Hunkele said. “He is very empathetic with them. He gains their trust. He listens and hears what the players are saying.”
Reid’s tenacity, especially when there is a problem to be solved, is a great asset to the Eagles.
“With some things, there is not an obvious answer about how to treat a patient. That worms into his brain,” Hunkele said. “He needs to find the answer for the athlete, and he keeps working at it.”
Reid’s workdays are long. Typically he gets to work between 6 and 7 a.m. When there’s a night game, he might not leave until 6 a.m.
“If we travel, I get back at 3 a.m. and then come back to work at 6 a.m.,” he said.
In January 2022, Reid was rehabbing a linebacker, conducting a stability exercise, when Reid rotated to the left and immediately felt a painful pop in his back. Four days later, he had emergency surgery, a spinal fusion.
Albeit an injury that still causes pain, Reid’s focus is always on the players. He worries about any and all injuries, helping athletes deal with them both physically and emotionally. When players are sad or depressed about an injury, Reid is there to cheer them up.
“He always has a laugh and smile for you,” Hunkele said. “We have a great time working with Jerome. For us, it’s like a family. We all have to support each other.”
Despite the relentless hours and the strenuous work, he is still excited about going into work each day.
“You have the opportunity to have an impact on so many people’s lives,” Reid said. “I never came into the profession for the fame or to say I am a professional football trainer. I did it with the goal to help others.”
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