By Larry Penkava
CHAPEL HILL — Jordan Reid has been living a dream since November when ESPN put him on the air as an NFL draft analyst.
An N.C. Central quarterback from 2010–13 and a three-year starter, he spent his first five years after graduation as an assistant coach at his alma mater when the Eagles won three MEAC titles. But Reid realized something he “always wanted to do” was evaluating players and decided to “take a chance on myself.”
He began as a writer and scout for The Draft Network in 2019, offering advice to NFL teams on potential college players. It didn’t take long before ESPN noticed and offered him a job.
Raised in Winston-Salem, Reid played his high school ball at High Point Andrews. Being from the Twin Cities, he was a big fan of the late Stuart Scott of ESPN, a UNC graduate.
“He changed the game of broadcasting,” Reid said. “Working with the same company as he did is a great opportunity.”
Reid worked the Florida A&M-UNC game in Kenan Stadium on Saturday. He had marked several names on the UNC roster, including wide receiver Josh Downs and defensive players Myles Murphy, Noah Taylor, Tony Grimes, Cam’Ron Kelly and Storm Duck.
But he’s always seeking the unknowns who make themselves stand out by their play.
From FAMU, Reid was impressed by graduate transfer quarterback from Vanderbilt, Jeremy Moussa, whose statistics compared favorably with those of UNC’s Drake Maye. Moussa passed for 279 yards and two touchdowns while hitting 28 of 38 targets.
Reid also likes Downs, who, he said, has good hands and finds a way to get open. Downs caught nine passes for 78 yards and two TDs. He has Downs as a top-five wide receiver prospect in the 2023 NFL draft.
Reid will take what he learned at the FAMU-UNC game, added to players he sees at other games, and talk about them on ESPN. He regularly joins Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay and Matt Miller to discuss college players who could be good enough for the NFL.
But Reid’s TV time isn’t on a regular schedule. He said he’s always on call. “My hours are unlimited.”
When he gets a call, he sets up at his home in front of a video screen to interact, and sometimes debate, with the other commentators.
During the runup to the NFL draft program in the spring, Reid said he had the opportunity to be on the set with Jeff Saturday, an ESPN football analyst who played center at UNC and in the NFL for many years, mostly at Indianapolis.
“He is a wealth of knowledge,” Reid said of Saturday, whose son Jeffrey is a junior wide receiver at UNC.
While Reid works mostly at home in Charlotte with his wife and twin daughters on weekdays, his weekends are travel days during football season.
For example, he’ll be at the Wake Forest-VMI game in Winston-Salem this Thursday night. On Friday, he’ll watch the Duke-Temple game at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.
Later in September, Reid will be there when the defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs visit South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
“I cover the whole country,” he said. “I go to a different campus every week.”
With his team rosters in hand and binoculars at the ready, Reid watched the FAMU-UNC game looking for NFL potential. He said he doesn’t isolate players because “there are too many out there.”
Between plays, he jots down notes and checks his phone. He’s developing opinions about players, and the NFL teams want his perspective.
UNC fans will be happy to know what Reid thought about former Tar Heels QB Sam Howell, who wasn’t drafted until the fifth round by the Washington Commanders.
“I think Sam Howell should have gone earlier,” Reid said.
Asked what he looks for in a player, Reid listed size, athleticism and character. “There are always some surprises,” he said. “Someone else [besides the known players] stands out.”
Reid said that while he never considered an NFL career, he wanted to remain close to football. “I like scouting, looking at guys, on the air talking ball. There’s a lot of debate, especially close to the draft.”
The best part of the job? “Being around football.”
But he admits that his first time on the air was “the most nervous I’ve been since my first game in college.”
The last question for Reid had to be asked: Would you have drafted yourself?
“Absolutely,” he said with a wide smile.
Larry Penkava has been writing for newspapers since 1982. For three years, he has covered UNC sports, particularly the behind-the-scenes stories. He enjoys running and reading when he’s not watching the Tar Heels.
Photo by Larry Penkava