Brainstorming which athlete to highlight for the first edition of this series took all of about 15 seconds.

Not only was George Reed a star athlete in the class of 2015 at Darien in both football and baseball, he’s genuinely one of the best young men I’ve come across in my four years covering the town.

Despite only covering him for his senior year, Reed has been invaluable as an asset to me in terms of providing me with any contact information I might need, as well as a quote for any story at any time.

So, when you look at his life three years after leaving Darien High School, it’s little surprise that Reed is thriving on the field, in the classroom and in his budding professional career.

The easiest place to start with Reed is where I met him, on the gridiron.

Reed went to Union College in Schenectady, New York after graduating to pursue both football and baseball.

After suffering his second ACL injury in his sophomore year, Reed opted out of the baseball program to focus on his physicality for football.

Reed played defensive end at Darien, and graduated weighing about 230 pounds. He started his career as a pass-rush specialist at Union, but has since dropped 30 pounds and will begin his first full season at a new position in the fall.

“I’m not a big guy anymore,” Reed laughed. “I play a coverage linebacker, in our defense it’s the Sam linebacker so my first step is back, but they still let me on third downs get up on the line of scrimmage and rush the passer—which is probably the most fun thing to do in football.”

Reed made the position change because another player in the program—whom he said is probably the best defender on the team—was in his class and played his position, so he found another way to be on the field.

“It was fine that I was playing third downs, but they wanted me on the field first and second down,” Reed said. “So, towards the end of last year I tried out this new position and I had five tackles against RPI and nine tackles in our bowl game.”

Playing at one of the premier programs in the state made his jump to the college level easier, but not in the way you may think.

Reed said that defensively, the schemes are much more advanced in college, but because he had played against the Darien offense in practice—as well as teams like New Canaan and Greenwich in the FCIAC—he was ahead of the curve in terms of understanding what opponents would try to do at the college level.

“That’s really helpful because none of that’s new to me,” Reed said. “A lot of the other guys that don’t play in the FCIAC don’t have the opportunity to see that in high school, they’re used to more smash-mouth, run it down your throat type football and it’s much more complicated when you get to college. As far as schematically, the FCIAC is much more advanced offensively and that helps you understand what’s going on a lot better.”

Because of his injury, Reed will have a fifth-year to play football at Union in 2019 despite this season being his senior year academically.

Reed already has a job lined up with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Baltimore when he graduates, but has worked it out so he’ll be able to use up his eligibility in that extra season.

“Last year I had a good year. I had 35 tackles, 2 ½ sacks and a few forced fumbles, but I’m trying to be an All-League player next year and the year after,” Reed said. “The company I’m working for in Baltimore is OK with that it’s something that I would want to do…and they respect the motivation I have so they’re going to let me exercise that, which I’m very thankful for.”

Reed’s versatility is one of the things that makes him great on the field, but it also translates to his academics.

“I’m sure my dad would say I could be doing better,” Reed laughed. “I’m a political science major and I really like everything in my major, it’s made me much more interested in the news and other aspects of life because of what I learned in school and it’s prepared me well for the job I have now, which is working for an insurance company. (College) kind of of forces you to step out of your comfort zone, I’m taking acting, drawing and hip-hop classes and I actually love it. I got into a program in Paris at the Louvre, so in December I’ll be in Paris doing some art stuff and I’m really excited about that.”

When Reed isn’t at school it’s routine to see him and other Darien grads supporting the continued success at Darien. According to him, that attendance is a combination of pride and nostalgia.

“First and foremost, all the guys that are coming back are jealous,” Reed said. “We all wish we could teleport back in high school and do better. I think people are just jealous of the opportunity and it wasn’t easy that (last) year, we aren’t sure if they know how hard it was for Darien to get on top, so it’s very cool watching Darien succeed and feeling you and your peers had something to do with that.”

If you ask football coach Rob Trifone or baseball manager Mike Scott, they’d tell you Reed has as much to do with it as anyone. @reportedbytheAP