LEHIGH ACRES, Fla. — Shanon Reid’s traditional “hat dance” ceremony implied a routine recruitment coming to an end at Dunbar High School in Fort Myers.
Reid, a highly sought-after linebacker prospect with some 30 listed offers, had five different headgear before him: Mississippi State, Michigan, LSU, Iowa State and Tennessee.
Few could have known the shell game that had taken place throughout his senior season of high school leading up to him donning the Power T visor and declared himself a Volunteer on Dec. 7.
“Everyone tells you to have fun with recruiting,” Reid said told SEC Country in an in-home interview Sunday night. “But there’s a lot more to it.”
Reid will begin classes at the University of Tennessee on Jan. 11, one of five midterm enrollees in the Vols’ recruiting class of 2017.
Reid’s recruiting path to Knoxville was filled with bumps, detours, half-truths and broken promises.
Such issues are becoming more and more common in college football recruiting, where the pressure to win has taken priority over the integrity of a scholarship offer.
“The recruiting trail has been hard for him, but he ended up in the right place,” Dunbar coach Sammy Brown said, “and Tennessee got itself a bonafide winner.”
Indeed, but not before Reid found himself wanting to storm out of one coach’s office and circling at least one game on the schedule next season.
Reid grew up a Florida State fan, dreaming of having the same sort of success with the Seminoles that NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders once enjoyed. Sanders was one of many football greats to play high school ball in the Fort Myers area.
Reid became known as “Shanon the Cannon” while dominating the midget and pee wee ranks, ultimately growing into an explosive 6-foot-1, 207-pound package with 4.4-second speed.
“My principal went to Florida State and he’s a fan, and when he found out I was interested, he got (Seminoles assistant) Jay Graham on the phone, and I talked to him,” Reid said, then unaware he will soon share a Tennessee Vols’ heritage with Graham.
“He asked me if I could go to junior day”
Shanon and his father couldn’t wait to make the 5 1/2-hour drive to Tallahassee.
Graham showed Reid and his father around the campus, and it was everything Shanon hoped it would be.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher topped off the Reids’ exciting day by telling Shanon he was going to offer him a scholarship.
Reid told a reporter from a national recruiting website that he had received an offer from the Seminoles.
“The guy said he talked to the Florida State staff,” Reid said, “and he never got it confirmed.”
Reid was confused that any Seminoles’ staff member would tell the recruiting site that he didn’t have an offer.
“So then I tried to call Jay Graham, and he wouldn’t pick up the phone,” Reid said. “I was thinking, ‘What was the point of going up there to Junior Day, then?’ “
It was the first of many unanswered questions Reid ended up asking himself during the process.
Sammy Brown was the Dunbar defensive coordinator when Reid was pulled up to play varsity football as a freshman.
“His father had him in the weight room the entire summer, and I saw he had leadership qualities, the kids all wanted to be around Shanon,” Brown said. “I saw how long and rangy he was, and his skill set was through the roof. He had that ‘it’ factor, you know? Still does.”
Brown believes it’s his responsibility to develop the players in his program off the field as well as on it, and a summer camp tour is part of his formula.
Last summer, Brown drove a van loaded up with 15 players to take part in summer camps at Mississippi State, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Maryland and Rutgers.
“This is something I’ve been doing every summer for 18 years,” Brown said. “It’s my summer vacation, and I like to see different coaches and see what they are doing, to stay up with the latest training methods and things like that. The kids can see the different campuses and experience different parts of the country.
“It’s a team bonding thing. The first hour, they love each other. The next 20 hours they are getting on to each other, and by the end, they love each other again.”
Reid took a liking to Mississippi State upon arriving in Starkville and getting a tour of the campus. It wasn’t to the point of committing, but the Bulldogs were the early favorite for Reid as the packed van rolled on to the other campuses, the final football stop in Rutgers, N.J.
Brown also took the players to Times Square in New York City and the White House in Washington D.C. before the team returned to Fort Myers for voluntary summer conditioning.
Mighty Michigan and new Wolverines defensive coordinator Don Brown were soon interested in Reid, and the feeling was mutual.
On one of Don Brown’s visits to Dunbar High School, Reid’s family set up an Oct. 1 visit to Ann Arbor to attend Michigan’s game against Wisconsin and get an idea of what school might me like at the traditional midwestern powerhouse.
“It was crazy, all those fans, and Twitter blew up,” said Reid, discussing how the news spread of his courtship with Michigan. “They said when you go to the game people will know who you are, and I didn’t believe it, but it was true. People were like ‘Shanon sign here,’ and I’m like, ‘I’m still in high school.’”
Reid’s family was told that head coach Jim Harbaugh was in a meeting with ESPN, so he wasn’t going to be able to meet with Shanon during the visit.
Reid’s mother didn’t appreciate that her son came all that way and didn’t get to meet with the head coach.
“Everybody wants to say ‘Go Blue,’ but they don’t know what happened,” Lindell Anderson said. “It didn’t matter at first, then we went to Tennessee and met with Coach (Butch) Jones, and I was like, ‘They don’t do that at Michigan.’”
Michigan also asked Reid to take the English portion of the standardized SAT test, even though he was already qualified.
“The test took like five hours on a Saturday,” Reid said. “We sent it in, but then they never said anything after that. It had to be something with Coach Harbaugh, because Coach (Don) Brown loved me.”
The offers continued to roll in for Reid, different schools coming by Dunbar High School to meet with him and watch him practice.
“Every day, it seemed like somebody different,” Reid said. “They would call me down out of my class, and we’d have a room with our sports advisor, and he’d have my transcripts and highlights, so they’d call me down to meet coaches.”
Florida, Michigan, West Virginia and North Carolina State were among the visitors Reid most vividly remembers, though Miami also expressed interest.
Tennessee, however, was the school that seemed most interested, thanks to ace recruiter Larry Scott.
Scott played his high school and college football in Florida, and he spent seven years as an assistant at South Florida and another three years at Miami where he served as interim head coach at the end of the 2015 season.
Tennessee has benefited greatly from Scott’s Sunshine State connections. Carlin Fils-aime and Tyler Byrd were recruiting out of Naples in the 2016 season, along with Brandon Johnson from Plantation on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.
Sammy Brown is among the high school coaches who has come to know and trust Scott on the recruiting trail, something that should not be taken lightly this day and age.
“Coach (Larry) Scott was on (Shanon) in spring football, and we were supposed to go to Tennessee’s camp during our trip, but the schedule got messed up,” Sammy Brown said. “I’d known Coach Scott from when he played at South Florida under (coach) Jim Leavitt, and I knew he’d get him up there on a visit.”
Reid thought he was going to take official visits to North Carolina State and Colorado, but both schools fell through with their pledges to bring him in.
“Colorado, the coach texted me last week to see if I was still open-minded,” Reid said. “I was like, no, you had your time. Everybody had their time.”
Sammy Brown said he has seen recruiting change over the course of his coaching career.
“Recruiting has gotten more complicated, with guys making offers to eighth and ninth graders, when they might not even still be the head coach when the kid graduates,” Brown said. “Used to be when you get the offer, you knew it was real. Now, some places come by your area and drop 25 scholarship offers and they only have 17 spots.
“You have to ask if it’s a committable offer.”
NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER
By the time November rolled around, Reid was thinking he needed to take more visits and close in on a decision.
Reid was on pace to graduate early, but less than two months away from the midterm enrollment dates, he still didn’t know what college he would be at in January.
Scott came to Reid’s high school to set up the visit, first making sure there was still mutual interest.
“Coach Scott joked with me, he said ‘What’s all this Michigan stuff I’m seeing? You know it’s cold up there,” Reid said. “Coach (Sammy) Brown told him I was just wearing the stuff because they give you that on your visit there, and he let Coach Scott know my mind was still open.”
A visit to Tennessee was in order, and the Vols set up Reid to be hosted by the defense’s brightest rising star, sophomore middle linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr.
“D.K. was great to be with on the visit, and now he can be someone I look up to who can teach me things,” Reid said. “He can make me better.
“Then (linebackers) coach (Tommy) Thigpen talked to me about how he’s going to use me. I learned a lot on the visit.”
Reid had a good feel for Tennessee, and so did his parents.
Iowa State was the other staff that recruited Reid thoroughly and stuck with him through all the ups and downs, and Reid felt he owed the Cyclones an official visit.
“They were so nice to me, just going on the trip, and coming on home visits,” Reid said. “They made sure all my academic papers were turned in, and even if they didn’t get me, they wanted to make sure my future was set. To this day, the coach talks to me to make sure everything is where it needs to be.
“They really checked on me to make sure I was good, as far as the NCAA Clearinghouse.”
Reid said the weather was a detriment, “and there were just like rows and rows of corn out there.”
LSU YA YA YA NO OFFER
Reid had decided he was going to make a verbal commitment to Tennessee on his birthday, Dec. 2, when his father got a call from his high school coach.
“He said, ‘Guess who wants to talk to me about Shanon? LSU,’ ” Reid said. “I was thinking this was an opportunity for me. It messed my head up, because I was supposed to be committing to Tennessee.
“Coach (Corey) Raymond came down and told my parents, ‘We have an offer for your son right here and right now, we’re going to set you up for a visit,’ “ Reid said. “And it was a great visit, the other players there from Florida loved me. But later, after we had dinner, I sat down with Coach (Ed) Orgeron, and he said, ‘We don’t have an open spot for you to enroll.’”
Reid said he didn’t understand what had just happened, but Raymond insisted an offer would be coming.
“He told me ‘It’s OK Shanon, I know you want to be a Tiger,’ ” Reid said. “He said ‘We’ll call you Monday. We’ll make sure we get you.’ “
Reid said Twitter was ablaze once more with all the talk surrounding his recruitment to LSU.
“So Monday, I’m waiting for a call,” Reid said, “and everyone in school is saying, ‘did you get your call yet?’ “
Reid admits he was frustrated from the time Orgeron delivered the shocking news that the scholarship offer he had been promised by Raymond did not, in fact, exist.
“I’m telling you, I wanted to walk out of that office so bad,” Reid said. “I was thinking, ‘I’m just going to wait until I play them, and when I play them …. stay tuned, there’s going to be chaos.”
For the record, LSU plays in Neyland Stadium next season on Nov. 18.
As for what came next in Reid’s recruitment after LSU hung him out to dry, Tennessee was ready to press the issue.
Coach Butch Jones and several members of the Vols’ staff flew down the day after Reid returned from his LSU visit.
“It was Coach Jones, Coach Thigpen, Coach (Bob) Shoop, the defensive backs coach and Coach Scott,” Reid said. “I was thinking that must be big if they are coming down in a private jet to see me.
“I realized they really, really wanted me, and they had stayed with me, even when things got crazy. LSU was a test …. and now I can’t wait to get to Knoxville.”
Today is Reid’s final day of high school before preparing for the next step in his football journey.
PREVIOUS SEC COUNTRY STORIES ON SHANON REID
Just heard about LSU loss lol all I can say is god doesn’t like ugly smh ???‼‼‼
— Shanon Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@SReezy21) December 20, 2016
— Shanon Reid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@SReezy21) December 21, 2016