D'Aundre Reed was in first grade when his cousin taught him how to do a back handspring.
The more Reed practiced, the more daring he became: The handspring evolved into a cartwheel backflip and then a standing backflip. The Arizona Wildcats defensive end now can jump, heels over head, from a standing position.
"It helps to learn when you're little," he said. "That way, you have no fear."
Reed says he's excited for the NFL draft, which starts Thursday in New York City. He's eager to learn where he'll be taken and what team he will play for.
But scared? No. Reed's too young, and confident, to be afraid.
Though he was a role player for most of his UA career, the 6-foot-4-inch, 261-pound Reed is sure he has the tools to make it in the NFL.
Reed has worked out for the NFL's Ravens, Patriots, Vikings and Dolphins in the last month. He recently traveled to Phoenix to meet with the Cardinals. He believes he'll be taken anywhere from the third to fifth round, though most projections have him tagged as a late-round pick.
His position will depend on which team takes him. Most scouts believe Reed is a natural fit as a pass-rushing defensive end in a 4-3 defense or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 set. NFLDraftScout.com lists Reed as the 24th-best available defensive end.
Reed, 23, is familiar with both positions: He played linebacker in high school and as a freshman at the UA before being switched to defensive end. He started just one game as a senior in 2010, but registered 40 tackles, six tackles-for-loss and two sacks.
The statistics were good enough to get the Moreno Valley, Calif., native invited to the NFL Draft Combine. His numbers at the UA's pro timing day last March were even better: Reed broadjumped 10 feet 5 inches, jumped 36 inches in the vertical leap and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds. Reed has enough game film to give scouts a good idea of what he does well.
NFL.com wrote last month that the Wildcats defensive end "displays good get-off" at the line of scrimmage and possesses a good motor but must improve as a consistent pass rusher. The solid performance at the combine and on pro day can only improve things, Reed said.
"I got enough tape," he said. "People saw what I could do."
But it's another tape that's helping Reed stand out. UA wide receiver David Roberts filmed Reed doing a standing backflip and, after adding some music, posted it to YouTube last month.
The flip clip has received more than 500 hits already, though Reed is unsure if any NFL scouts or executives have seen it.
The video won't necessarily improve Reed's draft stock, but the tape has helped him stand out from the hundreds of other college prospects competing for a spot.
"You gotta take advantage of everything in your arsenal, right?" Reed said. "You gotta stand out."
2011 NFL draft
• Thursday: NFL draft starts with first-round selections
• Friday: Second and third rounds
• Saturday: Fourth through seventh rounds