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They were all gathered at Foxwoods for the draft party, all the people in Jordan Reed's life were, last Friday night. Jordan's Village. They knew The Call would be coming, The Call of a lifetime, The Call that changes everything.
It would come sometime, because Reed had caught too many passes for the Florida Gators and impressed too many draftniks at the combines. Imagine: You leave home one night a kid and you come back a pro athlete. Turned out The Call came from the Washington Redskins. And then later, there was Mike Shanahan, the coach, comparing Jordan Reed to Aaron Hernandez.
And so Jordan Reed gets paid to play now. Third-round money. A success story worth telling repeatedly. And when it is told, it becomes an inspirational tale of a mother's sacrifices, a coach's passion and the Major family's compassion.
Indeed, Jordan Reed's story is a New London story. Everything that makes the city a place of such inexplicable, yet palpable charm.
It begins with Tommie and Barbara Major. The quintessential New London family: biracial, inclusive, opinionated, loyal. They opened their home to their son Tyler's best friend. Jordan Reed. They assumed legal guardianship. They added more responsibility to plates that already runneth over with two full-time jobs in the city and a lifetime of raising their own kids Melissa, Alexis, Tommie, Todd and Tyler.
They took in Jordan because Karen Reed, Jordan's mom, a single mom, couldn't pay a mortgage in New Britain and rent in New London anymore, even working two jobs. Karen Reed wanted her sons to play for Jack Cochran, who had already sent a battalion to college football and even some to the pros before he even met David and Jordan Reed.
David Reed was already playing for Cochran at New Britain when Cochran, owner of multiple state titles before his 40th birthday, returned to New London, his alma mater, in 2005.
Tyler Major knew the story. So he asked his parents whether Jordan could live with them. That way, Karen Reed could relinquish the rent she was playing at a home on Montauk Ave.
"I had already fallen in love with Jordan. How could we say no? But if we were going to do it, we were going to do it legally," Barbara Major said.
The Majors became Jordan Reed's legal guardians. It was multi-layered sacrifice: Karen Reed loved her son enough to have a plan for him that didn't include her. The Majors, already pied pipers for the city's admirable levels of benevolence and tolerance, opened their home to a teenager.
And now Jordan Reed's life, just beginning in so many ways, belongs on a billboard for happy endings. All of his mom's sacrifices were worth it. All of the Major family's sacrifices were worth it. Jordan Reed and David Reed (he plays for the Super Bowl champion Ravens) will both draw NFL paychecks this fall.
Jordan's story gets told through hindsight, which has been suggested is our only exact science. Still, it offers many lessons. The first of which is this: How other people choose to raise their children is nobody else's business, not even in this nosey world of social media.
Karen Reed absorbed much criticism for sending her children all the way to New London to play for Cochran, who was also hammered for furthering a win-at-all-cost reputation. Surely, the Reeds helped Cochran win. Know what they got in return? A lifetime of self-sufficiency.
Whom do you think won more in the end?
How can any of us not emerge from this without respecting Karen Reed's sacrifices? Without respecting Cochran's diligence? Without respecting the Majors' selflessness?
Imagine if Jordan Reed does for a kid one day what the Major family did for him?
Tommie Major, still an assistant coach in the program, was at Tony D's Saturday night, one night after his honorary son was drafted. He would take none of the credit. But there's a twinkle in the man's eye that has become unmistakable. You could see he was very much like the proud father.
And Jordan's new teammates, the guys who will take on the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles now, get the kid Barbara Major once described this way:
"Goofy. Fun. A great kid. A momma's boy. Sensitive. Sloppy. Always says thank you for everything," she said. "And always walks around with a football in his hand."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.