Jah Reid grew up hungry in his mother's three-bedroom, one-story home in an old neighborhood of Haines City, Fla. Not that Lucinda Stratton didn't put food on the table. She did. Plenty of it, in fact.
It was just that Reid ate prodigious amounts as a growing youngster and his appetite was rarely sated. By the time he hit 11th grade, he was a plumped-up 370 pounds as a two-way tackle on the football team, too overweight to attract any Division I scholarship offers.
Juxtapose that image with the massive but svelte physique Reid has now at 6 feet 7, 320 pounds and you have the portrait of the player the Ravens believe will be their next right offensive tackle.
The team's third-round draft pick in April, Reid started his last 33 games for Central Florida at right tackle after he engineered a body make-over through diet and training. He was twice selected first team All-Conference USA and performed well in the East-West Shrine game at the end of last season.
"I think he will blossom in our system," said Eric DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "I just think the arrow is pointed up on him. Reid might be one of the guys who comes in and adapts very well, a guy who can learn the system and compete right away."
The Ravens liked him so much they traded up five spots in the third round — giving away a sixth-round pick — to take Reid ahead of a handful of teams also in the tackle market. At a news conference that day, general manager Ozzie Newsome and DeCosta spoke glowingly about Reid's physical and mental attributes.
It was left for coach John Harbaugh to set the bottom-line expectation for Reid: "He'll be competing for the right tackle spot right out of the gates, and we'll see where it goes."
That, however, was before the NFL lockout dragged into its fourth month, eliminating offseason workouts that traditionally give rookies and first-year players a head start into training camp.
If Reid can play right away, he may be able to resolve an issue that lingered all through last season. When a mysterious back ailment took tackle Jared Gaither out of the lineup for the year, the Ravens were forced to move right guard Marshal Yanda to tackle.
And while Yanda performed admirably, the Ravens' running game took a big step backward in 2010. With Yanda at guard and Reid at tackle, the Ravens likely are a more physical and better run team.
But the pick was even more timely because under the league's current labor proposal, both Gaither and Yanda would be unrestricted free agents this season. In other words, Reid might have to play. The Ravens' mantra is that they will play the five best linemen.
Eight pints a day
Reid's rise from flabby high-schooler to prospective NFL starter is a story of a single-parent mother who did everything she could for her son. Reid reciprocated with his love and willingness to please her.
Reid's father was a 6-foot, 190-pound Jamaican who did not stay with the family. Stratton, just 5-8 1/2, became a Boston Bruins hockey fan when she lived in upstate New York. She could not participate in sports because of her asthma. Deeply religious, Stratton named her son Jah, which is the short form of the name Yahweh, for God.
Reid engaged in lots of activities when he was young. He hiked, went on canoe trips, joined the Boy Scouts, played in his middle school band and, at the prodding of youth coaches because of his size, eventually played football. At 5-5, he literally stood head and shoulders above his elementary school classmates.
"One day I went to school to eat lunch with him," Stratton said. "And all the kids would walk by and give him their milk. He said, 'I drank eight pints of milk today.'"
That barely scratched the surface of it.
Stratton couldn't afford steak, so she bought Hamburger Helper. When they went to a favorite Chinese restaurant, Reid would consume 40 pieces of chunky, kung pao chicken after soup and egg rolls. For dessert, he'd have an ice-cream sundae with M&M's on top. At night — every night, in fact — he'd eat an entire box of cereal with almost half a gallon of milk.
He could easily eat a whole pizza by himself. He also loved sweets, which his mother favored, and sodas.