Tyrae Reid Jr. had a "life-comes-at-you-fast" experience last spring that he will never forget. That February, he was named the offensive coordinator for the HBCU Legacy Bowl and was thinking "Oh my God" as he sat a table with Doug Williams, a man who he had always looked up to as a football nut, Maryland native and Black quarterback.
Just a couple months later, Reid was talking one-on-one with Williams in an interview process for a new fellowship that bore the Hall of Famer's name. Come summer, Reid was working in the same building as Williams every day as a coach with the Washington Commanders.
"It just shows how everything comes full circle, and it's surreal," Reid said. "Coming from the program I was in and the level I was coaching, you don't really see a lot of people getting the opportunity to coach in the NFL. Once it came though, I was like, 'Oh this is happening. I really get to test this.' And I realized that this opportunity could change my life."
That life-changing opportunity came via the Doug Williams Coaching Fellowship, a program designed to provide the Commanders with access to talented coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities ("HBCUs") while giving a diverse set of applicants the opportunity to advance their careers while learning and growing with an NFL coaching staff.
Reid described hearing the news of his hiring as "a dream." Throughout the 2022 season, the former Bowie State quarterback and coach worked as an offensive assistant for the Commanders and found the experience impacted him in more ways than he could ever have predicted.
His ascension to this role would have had young Reid shaking his head in disbelief. He was raised by a single mom in Baltimore's Cherry Hill neighborhood where football at first was more about distraction than it was about dream-chasing.
"Where I grew up, it's just one of those places where you had to be doing something. You couldn't have idle time because you'd get into the wrong stuff," Reid explained. "Football was my structure, and I just kind of immersed myself in it."
The game surrounded him with mentors and like-minded peers and eventually grew into a passion that pushed him to be his best self.
"Some of my first important male figures in my life were my coaches," Reid said. "I kinda needed that discipline and for somebody to try to guide me in the right direction. My mom, she used to hold football over my head, like 'If you don't do X, Y and Z, then you can't play.' So that was always a motivating factor for me. I made sure that I got good grades, and I did the things that I needed to do in the house to be able to play."
His hard work, talent and discipline led him to the collegiate level. Reid started games in all four of his seasons as a quarterback at Bowie State. And it was there, as he became more fixated on perfecting his craft, that he started to see a potential coaching future.
"At that point in time, I thought once this [college football] was over, coaching was what I was going to get into," Reid said. "Once you get to a certain level, you become somewhat of a coach on the field -- getting people lined up and understanding the game, you can see your teammates in the right position. All of that was important for the position I played, so it was kind of a natural progression."
“It just shows how everything comes full circle, and it’s surreal. Coming from the program I was in and the level I was coaching, you don’t really see a lot of people getting the opportunity to coach in the NFL. Once it came though, I was like, ‘Oh this is happening. I really get to test this.’ And I realized that this opportunity could change my life.” Tyrae Reid Jr.
His coaching career began at the Division III level as a quarterbacks coach at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Here, evidence started to build behind Reid's initial inkling that coaching might be a good fit. Finding success with the quarterbacks at McDaniel, he was selected to the NCAA Future Football Coaches Academy in 2015.
After two seasons with the Green Terror, Reid returned to Bowie State for a Division I job with more responsibility. His time as an offensive coordinator with the Bulldogs was a vital step in his coaching journey.
"It gave me a sense of purpose and confidence in my coaching," Reid said. "I know a lot of guys who came out of similar situations as I did. I recruited Baltimore city. I recruited a lot of similar areas to where I grew up. Giving those guys an opportunity to play college ball, getting those guys that structure, giving those guys the ability to have a mentor, a big brother, a father figure, whatever they need, it was a great experience."
Again, Reid proved himself and started turning some heads. He was named to FootballScoop's Minority Coaches Watch List, which piqued the interest of Alonzo Carter, an assistant head coach at San Jose State who also happens to be on the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches executive committee.
Not long after having a few conversations with Reid, Carter learned about the Doug Williams Coaching Fellowship and passed it on to Bowie State's young offensive coordinator. After an interview process in which head coach Ron Rivera called Reid "extremely impressive," he was offered the fellowship position.
As an offensive assistant for the Commanders, Reid spent the 2022 season working with the quarterbacks alongside Ken Zampese and assistant quarterbacks coach/offensive quality control coach Luke Del Rio. He hit the ground running just before training camp and spent the subsequent months soaking in all the lessons of the sport's highest level.
"It's definitely eye-opening to understand what goes into a game plan, what goes into a practice," Reid said. "There's a lot more detail to the game. Everything about it is different, and you understand why this is the highest level."
Reid did well enough in his first high-pressure, fast-paced season in the NFL that he was invited back for the 2023 season.
"I'm super excited about continuing to learn. I work with some amazing coaches, and I pick up stuff from them on the daily," Reid said. "I just want to keep working hard trying to try to win some games so we get to the playoffs."
From a deeper knowledge of X's and O's to trips to places he had only seen on TV, the Doug William Diversity Coaching Fellowship has offered Reid so much. The fellowship has exposed him to a whole new world and encouraged him to dream big, which is more than what can be put on a resume.
"My goals have changed. We should always be shooting for the stars, and I think I was dreaming too small," Reid said. "Now that I'm here, and even though you know I'm in an entry level role, I've started to realize like "Okay, it's possible."