In the end, Mississippi State's John Cohen was able to persuade Rea to guard the lines rather than the blindside of a college quarterback. Now five years into the journey, Rea is prepared for one last run at Dudy Noble field.
"It's crazy to think about," Rea mused reflectively. "It feels like just yesterday I walked in here as a freshman. Other times I realize that was five years ago. I just sort of look back over all of that and just try to learn from the things I made mistakes on.
"You just want to combine everything you've learned and all of the mistakes you've made and just let it all hang out this last year."
This "last year" could have come at the end of Rea's two previous seasons. Now a redshirt senior, the talented big man is eager to do his part to help the Diamond Dawgs achieve some big things as well as improve his own standing in the eyes of major league scouts.
"I really didn't know how long I would be here," Rea said. "Most people didn't even expect me to play baseball. I planned to be here to help build this program as long as I needed to be here. I never had a deadline or anything like that."
Determined to go out with a bang, Rea's senior season potential may be boosted by the most productive off-season of his college career.
"This was the first healthy summer I have had in a while," Rea said. "I went out and played ball in Maryland and that was good. This was the first summer that I have been able to play since my freshman year.
"I went out there and it was a good experience. I was able to get some more at bats in. I worked on some things and came back this fall ready to go. This is my last swing at things, so I came back full speed ahead."
After hitting close to .300 as a sophomore (.291), Rea saw his average dip to .245 as a junior. Some important pieces of the Bulldog offense went on to professional careers after the Bulldogs' run in Omaha.
In 2014, Rea was no longer bracketed by players who could protect him in the line-up. The big man admits to pressing a bit last season, but believes he is ready to return to form this spring.
"I feel like that may have been one of the things that hurt me last year," Rea said of being in the center of the lineup. "Two years ago, I had Hunter (Renfroe) hitting in front of me and (Brett) Pirtle around me and (Adam) Frazier leading off.
"I didn't feel a lot of pressure then. We knew everybody was going to do their part and I really felt my role there.
"Last year, I feel like I put a little pressure on myself. This year, I am going to enjoy it. I just want to have fun and hopefully that will kick off what I did two years ago."