And then cornerback Johnathan Joseph saw just exactly what Reid had been doing on the device.
“I’ve seen many guys take notes in this league, but I haven’t seen many guys take notes the way he takes notes and go into detail the way that he does,” Joseph said. “I can type, but I’m not like him where the coach is talking and he’s doing 60 words per minute.
“I’ve seen some of his presentations, and it’s like the coach’s presentations when he showed me what he’s done with the format and everything.”
The rookie safety takes immense pride in his notes, even going so far as to rewrite the entire Texans’ playbook — from memory — in his iPad to help him learn. It is something he has been doing since college because he realized how much it helped him commit to memory what he was reading.
This season, Reid has 56 tackles, a forced fumble, a tackle for a loss and three interceptions. His biggest moment — what Houston coach Bill O’Brien called “the play of the game” — came in the Texans’ Week 11 victory at the Washington Redskins when he returned an interception of Alex Smith 101 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m glad he’s with us. He’s been playing really well,” Mathieu said. “[He’s] obviously playing like a first-round pick, really not playing like a rookie. He’s making really big plays for us, so we’ll need him more down the stretch.”
The Texans are happy the 6-foot-1, 205-pound Reid fell to the third round, as they didn’t have a first- or second-round pick in the draft. He was a great find for Brian Gaine in his first draft as general manager for the Texans, especially after the way the secondary struggled last season.
On draft night, Gaine said not only did Reid’s body type — his height, weight and speed — stand out, but the Texans liked the versatility he brought, with the ability to play “strong safety, free safety, ability to play the run and ability to play the pass.”
“We feel like he’s a fully dimensional safety at the position,” Gaine said at the time.
The Texans certainly feel like Reid has quickly developed into a playmaking safety. He has started seven games, — including the past six — alongside Mathieu. Houston needed Reid to step into that role after the team had several significant injuries at the cornerback position, forcing safety Kareem Jackson to move back to corner. Reid also has an important role on the much-improved special teams, running the Texans’ punt protection.
“Justin has done a really good job of … understanding our defense, understanding on special teams what his role is … understanding the speed of the game [and] the different skill sets of the players that he’s playing against,” O’Brien said.
“He is the quarterback of the punt team, basically, and so there’s a lot that goes into that. All the different calls. And I’m always impressed with his ability to decipher the call. … I mean, he went to Stanford. I would tell you that he’s putting the Stanford degree to very good use.”
Like many rookies, Reid has had to adjust to the NFL learning curve, but he credits having an older brother, Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, who has played in the NFL and taught him the process for preparing for a season and games at the NFL level. The pair watched film together when Justin was playing at Stanford and Eric was playing for the San Francisco 49ers; Justin said it helped give him an advantage as a rookie.
Eric said he has been impressed with the way his brother has been playing, adding, “As a big brother who has pushed him for many years [and] been hard on him for many years, I’m happy to see him thriving.”
The hard work that Justin puts in isn’t a surprise to Eric, who said that he and his other brother Ryan “were tough” on their little brother growing up, but they saw him respond in a positive way in every aspect. For something as simple as competing at videos games, the older brothers took advantage of their younger sibling, who didn’t understand the games as well as they did.
“But when we stopped playing, he would keep playing until he got better than us,” Eric said of Justin. “So I think he’s carried that mentality in everything that he does. If you tell him that you’re better than him than something, that was your first mistake, because now he’s not going to stop until he surpasses you.”
It also was from his brother Eric that Justin Reid learned the importance of being diligent in learning the playbook and being prepared mentally. Along with rewriting the playbook on his iPad, Reid takes detailed notes that he says have helped him not only learn checks and calls for the Texans’ defense, but now allow him to take notes on the opposition, as well.
“That’s where it gets fun,” Reid said. “I’m taking notes on their formations, things that they do, their adjustments, their tendencies, so that way I can anticipate what they’re about to do.
“Some guys, they don’t fully buy into learning their own defense first and it’s hard to start game planning another offense if you don’t know all the checks to your own defense first. Because then if they show you something and you don’t know your own call for your own defense, you’re going to be kind of lost in the water a little bit on what to do.”
Reid’s teammates have noticed the rookie’s dedication to learning and improving.
“You don’t really see that from a lot of rookies,” Mathieu said. “Maybe they show up every other day, but I think he’s consistent just showing up really prepared. He’s a smart player; he’s a smart guy.
“It’s really easy for him to go out there on Sundays and show the world what he’s capable of because … he’s really prepared.”
But for as good as the rookie has been on the field, there’s still one area Reid’s teammates feel strongly that he needs to improve in.
“I doubt you have ever heard him give an impersonation of anybody or anything, but I’ve heard his Lil Wayne rap lyrics, and it’s awful,” Joseph said. “It’s bad.”