GLENDALE — Brooks Reed slipped his black sport coat on in an eerily quiet Houston Texans locker room Sunday afternoon following his team’s seventh straight loss. He was trying to avoid the present by thinking about the past.
As the former UA and Sabino High School star got dressed, he thought back to where his football journey began about 140 miles southeast of University of Phoenix Stadium.
“I always think about those Sabino days,” Reed said quietly after his Texans lost to the Cardinals 27-24. “I think you need to sometimes. Especially when you’re struggling like this, just to realize how lucky I am to be in the position I’m in regardless of our record. To be playing in the NFL and be healthy; I’m very fortunate.
“It’s been a crazy journey.”
Reed began his football playing days as a freshman for the Sabercats.
“The first day he walked in, all I could think was ‘this guy looks like Ivan Drago from Rocky,’ ” said a laughing Jay Campos, the longtime Sabino coach, in a phone interview. “He had the flattop hair and everything. Brooks is a first-class kid and he has a ton of good qualities about him.”
Reed’s journey took him from Sabino, where he was a Daily Star first-team defensive lineman in 2005, to the UA, where he was recruited as an offensive player.
After a redshirt season in 2006 that saw him play mostly tight end, Reed moved back to the defensive side for the 2007 season.
He eventually turned into a first-team All-Pac-10 player and finished his career with 114 tackles, 25 for a loss and 17 sacks over four seasons.
Following his senior season, he was drafted in the second round (42nd overall) by the Texans and is now in his third season with the organization.
On Sunday, Reed, who still has his long blonde locks flowing out of his helmet, had the second most tackles on the team with six and got to play in front of his dad, Bob, and sister, Katie, a student at NAU.
“I was hoping for a win and a few more sacks, but it’s always cool to see them after the game,” Reed said. “I know when I come home I’m always going to have support.”
That’s not all the support Reed has these days.
Earl Mitchell, Reed’s former teammate at the UA, plays next to him at nose tackle for the Texans. Like Reed, Mitchell is a converted offensive player after being a tight end for two seasons at the UA. He played his final two seasons on defense before being drafted a year before Reed in the third round by the Texans.
The two were teammates at Arizona for four seasons (Reed redshirted, Mitchell didn’t) and have now been teammates for the past three seasons in Houston.
“I remember when Brooks was going through the ugly stage,” a smiling and soft-spoken Mitchell said. “His hair wasn’t as long and the girls didn’t think he was dreamy. But it’s just great to see the growth he’s made. It’s been really exciting for me.
“It’s been so great to have him back on my side.”
Mitchell said it’s been “a couple of years” since he’s been back in Tucson, but Reed, who grew up in the Old Pueblo, visits much more frequently. The outside linebacker took in a Sabino game last month when the Texans were on a bye and is in regular contact with Campos.
The former UA star invites Campos to attend at least one game each season.
Reed said he expects his former coach to be in Indianapolis next month when the Texans travel to play the Colts.
“He always checks in on me,” Reed said of his former high school coach. “He’s a great coach and I know he just wants to win a state championship. He’ll get it one day.”
Sabino isn’t the only former team Reed roots for. He said he gets constant updates on the UA from his dad and watches games when he can.
Of course, being a Tucson guy, he knew about All-American Ka’Deem Carey before most.
“Jay would always tell me: ‘Man, this is the best running back I’ve ever had to prepare for. No matter what you do, you cannot stop him,’ ” said Reed, who also said he texts former Arizona assistant Tim Kish.
Mitchell can’t get updates from his dad like Reed, but he manages to keep an eye on the Wildcats.
“I hear a lot about Ka’Deem Carey and see how well he’s doing for the team,” said Mitchell, who, along with Reed, caught up with former UA and current Cardinals cornerback Antoine Cason after the game on the field.
“RichRod has been doing really good for that program and is turning it around and has the new facility. I know a couple of the seniors like Chris Putton, Daniel Jenkins and Terrence Miller and I’m wishing them all the best.”