Listen to the podcast here
Regardless of what happens in life, you always bring family lessons with you. In this episode, Karene Reid shares how his family taught him love, sacrifice, hard work, education, and loyalty. This tight-knit culture pushed him to join the Utah Football Program, which is rooted in family. Karene explains how his extraordinary Polynesian influence inspired him to constantly work hard and never take anything for granted. This mindset made him a member of the Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll and one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 Conference. He also opens up about his life as a married man, a proud father, and a noble man who served in an LDS mission in Madagascar.
Karene Reid Shares How His Family Taught Him Love, Sacrifice, Hard Work, Education And Loyalty
This is an interview with University of Utah Football star Karene Reid. In this episode, the University of Utah Football star Karene Reid, a 3-star recruit out of Timpview High School, 2-time, first team all-region, first Team Allstate, and Utah Valley Defensive MVP, brother of starting Ute Defensive End Gabe who transferred from Stanford University to play his teammates and son of Spencer Reid who played football at BYU and in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.
He shares his life, an extraordinary Polynesian influence that taught him, love, sacrifice, hard work, education, and loyalty. It made him choose the team culture of family perpetuated in the Utah football program. He’s giving us an inside glimpse into what it takes to maintain his priorities of faith and family. As a married man with a baby boy, he is a proud member of the Pac-12 academic honor roll and is one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 conference.
I want to know, Karene. You signed with Utah State and decided to serve an LDS mission. You went to Madagascar, which is so cool, and came back. Then without a scholarship offer, you walked on to the University of Utah and I would suspect it has to do with friendships, with family influence, with the family feeling that Coach Whittingham and the coaching staff lays out as an attractive way to get young men like you to choose to come to Utah.
I have watched you. I love when I knew I was going to interview you. I watched you on many plays in a row. We’ll talk about how intense and amazing you are, but I want to take you back to the way you were raised in your family. With your Samoan culture, I know family matters more than anything on the planet. Please take us back to how you were raised in Utah County going to Timpview High School being a superstar, which was related to your formal introduction of all the accolades you got as a superstar. Take us back.
You hit it right on the head. The culture was a big part of my upbringing. In the Samoan culture, we talk a lot about love, writing, giving freely, and also respecting those that are older than you. I feel like in a way that shaped my personality and it also shaped my work ethic. I have a family now and I want to make sure that I’m working hard for them, and also teaching my son who’s still young, what it means to be someone who’s full of service and love. I carried that with me throughout my youth, and then also as a football player as well.
He wanted to be professional, but I wanted everybody to know that he is a total package of physical, mental, spiritual, social, and family. I love what you represent. Let’s itemize. Your dad, growing up, was an awesome father, but a competitive collegiate athlete who also played three years in the NFL. One thing that you learn from your dad and your mom and how you plan on how that transposes into the football field, and then how you are going to teach those qualities or teach those things you learn to your new son Manu.
You hit it right on the head with what you said about my father. He grew up in American Samoa. He always said that he didn’t get the proper coaching that he felt the kids in the states were getting. He always told us, “If I can make it to the NFL, you guys have no excuse. The coaching that you guys have here and the access to film study that you guys have here.If you can make it to the NFL, you have no excuse not to pursue great things. Click To Tweet
It pushed us to try to be greater than him. The thing that he had going for him was determination, and so I try to take that into my own game. As far as my mom, she’s the one that pushes school on us. She keeps us going in the classroom and our parents are teachers and so we try to make her proud about doing well in the classroom.
Through Pac-12, all academic honor roll. Congratulations. Now we understand where Karene’s from. Let’s talk about the relationship you have with your brother, Gabe. Is he older or younger? How much difference in age is there?
He’s three years older than I am.
What did you learn from him? Were you able to play on the same team together? Was he a senior at Tempview when you were a sophomore? Teach us a little bit about the relationship you have with your brother.
Gabe was a senior when I was a freshman. We didn’t get to play against each other. I played scout team varsity and he pushed me around for a couple of weeks during playoffs. Our story is the typical little brother and big brother story. When I was younger, he was the guy that I wanted to be. I looked up to him a lot and felt like I followed in his footsteps for the most part. It came full circle because he came to Utah and so, it’s been a blessing to be around him.
Tell the fans what your number is.
He plays linebacker. What’s your favorite part of the game? Is it run stop or is it pass pro?
I feel like my strengths lean more toward the passing game. I’m a little bit of a smaller linebacker. I’m able to move quicker and keep up with some of the tight ends of receivers that not a lot of linebackers could.
How do you prepare for game day? We all know you don’t win the game on Saturday. You win it on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Give us an inside glimpse into how you’ve become an elite linebacker in the Pac-12 and how you’ve emerged as one of the great leaders on the field. Remember, once the game starts, the coaches are stuck on the sidelines. Somebody on the field has to make a play. That’s why I love interviewing you now because you are one of those playmakers.
As far as preparation, I try to treat Monday through Friday as if it’s Saturday. If we are in the film room or on the practice field making those calls, it’s got to be as intense as it is on Saturday because when we get on the field on Saturday, there’s going to be so many fans yelling. As you said, we can’t hear the coaches, they get mouth stuff but it’s all you. If you prepare with that intensity, it comes second nature on Saturdays.
Talk to us about this trust. I wore this shirt on purpose because we celebrated Veterans Day and even though this interview is evergreen and people can pull it up several years from now when you’ve got eleven kids. You’ve had many years in the NFL career and you’re out driving your Ferrari. What we have to understand is what we learned from these elite warriors whom we highlighted and celebrated in the game on Saturday because it was the day after Veterans Day.
One of the things that I have learned from these elite warriors is that an armored-up warrior never has to get ready. He stays ready. When I watched you play, it seems like you are ready for every play. What do you do mentally when an average play only lasts five seconds and yet you have 25 to 30 seconds to think about it before it occurs in between every play?
When I talk to teams, I always remind them about that. What do you do if you missed a tackle if you’ve screwed up a coverage? How do you recover? How do you rebound? How do you get ready because you got 25 to 30 seconds to get your mind and body ready to go to war again? Teach us about what you do in every play. The play has ended. You might be winded. What do you do to get ready for the next play that’s going to happen within 25 to 30 seconds?
It depends on how the play went. If you said I had a missed tackle, I’m a big guy that believes in focusing on your breath and meditation. I’m big into mindfulness and trying to get back to that spot where I’m comfortable within my mind and say I had a great play. I’m trying to use that as momentum. I’m trying to pump the crowd up and pump my teammates up. I use that excitement and try not to get rid of it and hold onto it as long as I can. It depends on the flow of the game and how the plays are rolling.
You are so committed to excellence and based on what you said. What if a fellow linebacker, number three, or somebody else missed coverage or the tackle? As a leader on the field, what do you say to that person? What do you do with that person for that person to make sure they are not down and that they can regulate their own emotion to get ready again?
You got to go right up to them and tell them that’s nothing. “Don’t worry about that. No one else is thinking about it.” In our own minds, it’s magnified. You are fighting your own thoughts. “I can’t believe I missed that. I don’t want to mess up again.” Knowing that everyone’s having those thoughts, you got to go straight to them and say, “We are not thinking about that anymore. Relax. We are good.” Especially if a coach is ripping them, too, that’s even worse. You got to watch out for your teammates in that way.
Your dad played at the highest level and I can’t wait to meet him. I can tell he’s a superstar. What conversations do you have with your dad after a game? In my situation, is a married man when my wife hears me speak or sees me do something. She’s my biggest fan and my most respectful critic. If you had a chance to drive home with your dad after a game and the Utes lost or as we say, “We didn’t lose. Time ran out, but we didn’t lose,” what are some of the conversations? What correction style did your dad and sweet mother use to help you get focused back up on being a champion if you by chance had a lousy game?
It depends on what stage of life. If we are in high school, I’m getting it all. He’s ripping me, pointing out every mistake. As Gabe and I have gotten older, it’s more of like we are married. He respects us more and it’s not as intense. He will, for sure, still let us know what we did wrong but we have a more open line of communication. If we make a mistake, we can tell him, “I was thinking this. This is where I messed up,” and he’ll help correct this. In high school, it was, “Listen. You don’t talk,” that type of situation.
You sometimes limped back to school. From a corporate perspective, as a leadership and sales trainer, I always counsel people, young men like you. We should never seek an opinion. We should only seek counsel. Some things are true. Whether you believe them or not, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but nobody’s entitled to the wrong facts, and we should never believe everything that we think.
When you go to someone for constructive criticism. We have to realize there are three forms of feedback. We have educational factual feedback, which is the facts. We assign no blame. You missed the tackle or you screwed up on the past coverage, you blew it. No assigning of blame or responsibility. It’s just the facts.
The second feedback is motivational. No matter what you did, no matter what your past has been, you have a spotless future. Get back up. I believe in you. There’s a difference between the person and the performance. Failure’s an event, not a person. Football is what you do. It’s not who you are as a man and motivation.
The third feedback is educational, which is the correction. What brought to mind was the respect you have for your dad. Having been there and having done that, it’s not criticism. It’s love, help, and coaching, and you don’t take offense to that. When someone points out that you blew it, you accept it as a teaching moment. It is love that I can become better. Thank you so much for caring enough about me to guide me to be better.
That’s the reputation that I hear time and time again from your fellow teammates that Whittingham has created, that all of the coaching staff at the University of Utah is famous for. That gives you reason to come to the University of Utah. Describe from your perspective as a family man, spiritual man, highly competitive athlete, superstar, and elite linebacker showing up. You are such a mellow dude but you show up at the line of scrimmage every play in a bad mood. Good for you. Teach us how you regulate all of that to put it together and segregate your different parts of life so that you put everything in perspective and have become this amazing young man that you are.
I feel like when I say I want to be great, it doesn’t mean just in football. When I’m on the football field, that’s all I’m thinking about. I want to be a different person. I want to be this fierce competitor that has no regard for anyone else. When I’m at home, I want to be the greatest father I can be. I want to be the greatest husband I can be. It’s all about chasing greatness in whatever aspect of life you are in, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field. My natural personality is mellow and I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of guy, but when it comes to chasing success, I feel like I’m pretty intense in that way.
In chasing counsel instead of opinion, who would your hero be physically? Who’s a player that you admire right now in the league and in the Pac-12 or in the NFL or both that you would admire that inspire you?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this because it’s a former Cougar, but I’m a big Fred Warner fan. He’s a great linebacker.
Because of what he does off the field, too, like martial arts. I’m a Fred Warner fan, too. Good for you. Remember Coach Whittingham was all-conference. He was one of the better linebackers who ever played at BYU. I loved watching that. He was so good.
I feel like US players wonder about that.
You should pick up some old films. He was so good. I’m a Ute-going dude. I love Whittingham for all the things that he brought to the fight before he became a Ute. Fred Warner. Who in the Pac-12 do you admire as a fellow champion linebacker?
I was a big fan of Devin Lloyd. I didn’t even have to look past our own team to be a big fan. Darien Butler was a great linebacker that I liked for Arizona State and those Washington State linebackers are no joke either. It’s fun to watch a film on other linebackers. It’s a copycat world. Try to take some moves that we see from them and use those to your own advantage.
Some may make a suggestion. My dad, growing up, always told me to identify the thoroughbreds of my generation and keep in touch. I played against McMahon and we became buddies and I became friends with a lot of the guys that I competed against because I could see that they were elite athletes and leaders. They were the crazy guy I wanted to be friends with later on in life.
That could be a suggestion for anyone reading this show. One of the greatest blessings in our lives is when we get through competing at the highest level trying to kick the crap out of each other, and at the end of the game, we hug his brothers going, “You pushed me. Great game.” Mentally, who inspires you to be this great student-athlete? You are putting emphasis on your education, you are thinking beyond football. Who’s your greatest inspiration to go to class and work hard?
Like how we talked about our upbringing. It would probably be my mom because, at such a young age, it was always, “Make sure you get your schoolwork done before you do anything.” Now that we are older, she’s always, “How’s school going?” That text doesn’t come from anyone else. It’s always about football when it’s other family members, but my mom’s always the one that keeps us in check as far as schoolwork.
Do you think that’s part of the Samoan culture that basically everybody in the family works for your mom? Your dad’s like, “Yes, ma’am. Now how do you want me to jump? No problem.” That’s what I have noticed. That’s so respectful. It’s so cool to watch. You teach all of us. Do you sense that on the Ute football team, the sense of family?
I have mentioned this on air with a lot of the other athletes. We have all heard of TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More. When I work with an NFL team, I always say, “We need to up-level that, too.” FAMILY, family. Forget about me. I love that. Do you sense that family culture at the University of Utah? Is that what drew you to that? Do you think that’s the secret to the Polynesian pipeline when we see so many Polynesian players love coming to Utah and they are working hard in our system?
That’s why these Polynesian people feel at home. As you said, it feels like family. It’s crazy that you can get people from all over the country who have these different upbringings and different beliefs and all of a sudden, we are all brothers and friends. It’s special.
Let’s talk about your spirituality. One of the greatest things that everybody needs to understand that the things and lessons you learn about serving a full-time two-year volunteer mission. Regardless of our religious tradition, regardless if anybody read this as a member of your church, what did you learn on your mission that you think every young man or young woman needs to learn regardless if they serve for two years or not in a religious tradition?
The biggest thing that it’s taught me that I’m able to apply in other aspects of life is to wake up and work when you don’t feel like it. That mission schedule is no joke and you don’t even have anyone watching you. You go at 6:30 all the way to 10:30. It’s such a strict schedule, but it’s taught me that there were so many days on my mission where I wish I would have slept in, but for whatever reason, I pushed myself to keep going and now I feel the same way.
You knew it was only two years, so you got to set yourself on fire and make sure you burn out in the service. You served in Madagascar. Tell us one experience you had over there that when you went to sleep that night, you are like, “I’m now a man?” It was a tough day. The weather’s bad. You are struggling with the language. People hate you. You are in a rock fight at 10:30 in the morning. I served in Ireland. That’s why I speak as one having experience.
It’s not as green as people think. It’s mostly dirt and when it rains and you have to walk uphill and there are these mudslides. Battling through the weather and the elements and then also the food’s not great. Everything’s bland. Learning to be one of them, the Malagasy people, and learning to love them no matter what, which you brought home with you. Love your teammates. Love diversity. Find strength in diversity and everything else matters. Everything else takes care of itself.
One of my favorite books is W1NNING by Tim Grover and he was the Mindset Coach for Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and D. Wade. As I have read that book and I have had a chance to be on the program with him, he asks people, “What is happiness?” Everybody says, “It’s love and warmth.” He’s a Utopian. He says, “No.” You ask these guys that he’s worked with these elite athletes, “What is happiness?” They say, “It’s pain, sacrifice, and hard work. It’s putting in the time and doing what you need to do even when you don’t feel like you are doing it.” Maybe that’s something else that you learned in your mission that you had to do things.
The difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person is that the successful person will do what the unsuccessful person will not do. The kicker is the successful person doesn’t want to do it either but they do it anyway. That’s Karene Reid. I can see that as you run to the ball. As I say, you never take off a play. It’s awesome.
Let’s talk about game day. How do you prepare for the game? Take us into that. You go to bed. It’s pre-game butterflies. You calm down at night. You know you got to have it right at home or you can’t get it right on the field. You got to get it right at home or you can’t get it right at school. I understand the significance of your personal relationship. Addison, but take us to game day. Once you wake up, what do you do to get ready to leave that Utopian family feel and put your warrior helmet on, put on the whole Armor of Utah, and go battle?
Monday through Friday is so intense that when Saturday comes, I want to try and relax. I wake up and feel good and be myself even if that means watching a TV show depending on how much time we have. Watching a TV show calms me down. On the downtime, Coach Whit is so big on visualization. Sitting there by yourself and imagining those big plays and all the films that you’ve watched. Imagine yourself fitting in the correct spots and making those plays. I do whatever I need to relax, whether that’s music or TV.
What would your music of choice be? When I interviewed Clark Phillips, I said, “You put the headphones on before the game? Are you like Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer?” He’s listening to rap. He’s listening to hard rock. He’s getting fired up to break a world record. Clark Phillips says, “My dad is a preacher. I listen to him.” What do you do to mellow you out? Do you have a certain playlist that you listen to every game day or what do you do?
I’m a big Jack Johnson guy.
That Hawaiian mellow guitar dude. That’s good.
Maybe a couple of minutes before kickoff, then I will turn on my rap music or whatever I need to turn that switch.
Plug your artist. Who do you listen to right before the game? Tune it up a couple of knockers.
Anything you can imagine, Drake or J. Cole. I’m pretty basic.
Very cool. Nothing erratic like, “My wife ran off with my best friend and I’m going to kill him.”
Nothing crazy like that.
Just trying to get you fired?
Just enough. Nothing crazy.
What’s your favorite food?
I love Mexican food. I’m not even that picky about Mexican food. It doesn’t have to be super authentic or quality. I love Mexican food. I love island food. You can ask my wife. I’m not very picky at all.
If no one’s at home when you show up and you are starving, what would your default meal be? What would you cook yourself?
I would go in the pantry and see if there’s a Pop-Tarts or something. See if there’s any cereal left over. My wife is the cook, so if she’s not home, that’s rough.
Let’s get down to the last couple of minutes. This is your chance to do a recruiting plea, what would you say to any young man in any school across the country to get him to decide to come to Utah?
My experience has been that Utah is going to play the best players. I wasn’t recruited. I was a walk-on. The fact that they saw my talent and decided to develop me and use me meant a lot and says a lot about the University of Utah. For those that think that they are going to play their five-star recruits or their top recruits, that hasn’t been the case for me. If you feel like you are the best player and that you can play, you got to show it and Utah’s going to put you in the right spot.
Let me milk this for a second. So many people believe that if you are recruited by a coach and they come into your living room and promise you all this, and then the NIL now maybe with the Ferrari in a couple of mansions in Beverly Hills that you are going to play. What you are saying is that’s all well and good, but if you can’t perform, your position is up for grabs every single day.
I was a guest at The Muhammad Ali, three-time world heavyweight boxing champion’s house back in 1988 before Parkinson’s set in. I said, “Champ, I know you’ve been three-time world champion, which means you’ve been defeated twice by two inferior opponents. Why?” He said, “I got complacent. Once the fight began, I forgot that I no longer held the title. I had put it up for grabs and I had to fight as hard as I did the first time I wanted to win it back.”
That’s your mindset. You are teaching everybody that every day, your position’s up for grabs and you must earn it back every day. Don’t take anything for granted. If you show up as a 4-star, 5-star recruit, it takes you 22 and a half minutes to walk from the back of your team meeting room to the front because you walk like you sat on something hot. Maybe you don’t know who I am. You haven’t read my newspaper clippings. That doesn’t mean one. It’s what you do in preparation and film study, the wait room, bettering yourself every day. That’s your message.
These guys want to win and so they are going to put their best guys forward.
If we could help you with the NIL, name, image, and likeness. How could we help a young man like you, a newlywed and new father in the NIL market? What can we do to keep in touch with you and to solicit any help from any corporate sponsor, anybody in the Ute, or family in the Ute Nation to rise up and say, “Karene Reid represents every single one of us fans with so much integrity, class, and heart?” How do we reach out to you and support you as an individual?
I’m on Instagram if you search my name and Facebook as well.
Is that your handle?
If you search for that name, you’ll find it.
It’s the only one in the world. I sound like a freaking cereal box. This is wrong. I’m going to go back to my mom. What would you need, clothes, cars, or food?
Anything helps. We are a young family. Everyone’s been there, done that. We are grateful for that.
In the NFL draft, what would be your team of choice that you would want to play for that fits your style as a linebacker? You said Fred Warner because you play a lot like him. He can go inside or outside. Who would be your favorite team as we wind down?
It’s more about location, just because my family’s all in Utah. I wouldn’t prefer to be out East, but whatever. Any teams down here in the West.
You simply said Raiders.
It sounds good. One of those two.
Ladies and gentlemen, Karene Reid. I want to thank him so much because of the wisdom he shared with all of us. If you are out there in Ute nation, and you need to show your support instead of saying your support, please contact Karene Reid, and we’ll work with him through the NIL opportunity to support him and his family and his mission in life to leave everybody else better than they were when they arrived. That’s the reputation. You are a leader off the field as well as on the field, and I congratulate you. Thank you so much.
I appreciate you.
About Karene Reid
Son of Spencer and Marrieta … has two brothers and one sister … father played football at BYU from 1994-97, signing with the Carolina Panthers out of college for two seasons, also playing one season with Indianapolis before sustaining a career-ending back injury … brother, Gabe, joined the Utah Football team in 2022 after transferring from Stanford … married to Addison Reid.