Legend, Superstar, Playmaker, Leader, G.O.A.T. The superlatives are numerous when you describe what Ed Reed has meant to the game of football. As much as Reed was beloved by his team, he drew the ire of the opposing offensive coordinator. Reed was a nightmare to scheme against with his anticipation for plays, awareness and physical gifts. Today, those plans for Ed Reed include getting fitted for a Gold Jacket.
The announcement of Reed’s inclusion as part of the 2019 NFL Draft Class was widely presumed to be a mere formality upon news that the former five-time First Team All-Pro would be eligible for enshrinement. Having reached the pinnacle of the sport at every level of the game, this final acknowledgment cements a legacy that incorporates all that it should mean to be a Miami Hurricane.
Edward Earl Reed grew up with his mother and four brothers in St. Charles Parish in Louisiana. Reed showed a gift for sport from an early age. Reed also showed a talent for being a leader both on and off the field. Add those intangibles to his unique skill set and you’ll understand why Reed became one of the most sought after college prospects in the Bayou State. However, even one of the game’s most enigmatic leaders needed a push to find his way.
After missing some classes as an upperclassman at Destrehan High School, Reed left home to live with Mrs. Jeanne Hall, who served as the school’s administrative secretary and academic advisor. Hall and her family welcomed Reed into the fold and his own family was just five minutes away. The move paid off: Reed improved his attendance and grades to elevate himself into a good academic standing. With his academics in order, Reed was free to concentrate on his college recruitment while continuing to thrive as a multi-sport star, splitting time between track and field, basketball, baseball, and football.
An all-state defensive back and kick returner for Destrehan, Reed would also moonlight at quarterback and running back for the Wildcats. That’s par for the course when you get named the district’s Most Valuable Player by the New Orleans Times Picayune. Destrehan HC Stephen Robicheaux would later quantify Reed as,“[having a] heart as big as the world, fun guy to be around, y’know, I am just so humbled and glad to say that I was a part of Ed’s life, and he was a part of mine.” With his outstanding resume, Reed certainly had the attention of local Louisiana institutions, Tulane and LSU, both pressing to keep the Louisiana native home to play his college football. Participating in a high school all-star game in Death Valley, home to the LSU Tigers, and playing alongside local stars such as WR Reggie Wayne and DE Jarvis Green only ramped up the recruitment for Reed’s talents.
At the time, the defensive back was being pursued by Tulane, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, and the University of Miami. As anyone who has a vested interest in recruiting knows, pulling a boy from Louisiana to play football out-of-state is a tremendous task. The sense of community throughout the state, familiarity and overall state pride make significant barriers for those out-of-state schools to attract Reed. While his family and his home mean a great deal to him, those factors weren’t his only concerns he had when choosing a school.
While the allure of staying in state was very great, Reed chose to attend the University of Miami. Reed was recruited by then-WR coach Curtis Johnson and HC Butch Davis. Ultimately, Reed indicated a desire to get away from the problems that plagued his hometown. He wondered, “Where would I fit and where was society at the time?” UM offered Reed refuge, despite the school being under sanctions during Reed’s recruitment. It was only later that the safety revealed that the environment at Miami was what sold him on committing to the school, providing the answers to his questions. Miami was coming off sanctions for a financial aid scandal during HC Dennis Erickson’s tenure that resulted in a loss of 24 scholarships over the course of two seasons. However, Butch Davis and his staff were able to make Reed feel the most comfortable a long way from home.
Success did not come to Ed Reed immediately upon his arrival to the Coral Gables. Reed was redshirted in his first season, seeing no time on the field and having to scrap in practice to show the coaches that he was worth a scholarship. The trials of being a non-starter weighed on the freshman — so much so that Reed contemplated packing up and going home due to frustration. Unfortunately, getting transportation from Miami back to Louisiana is not cheap, so Reed made the best of his situation. It also helped that he roomed with a fellow Bayou native in WR Reggie Wayne. Reed calls his college roommate and long-time friend, WR Reggie Wayne, brother. Wayne helped to keep a disinterested Reed motivated throughout his redshirt year, letting him know that his time to shine was coming. Reed ended up being grateful to not have played as a freshman, stating, “How it turned out at the end, I wouldn’t be in school my senior year to win a national championship if I played my freshman year. I wouldn’t have went to Baltimore, and went there as a professional if I had went a year early.”
That patience paid off for the Hurricane star. The Hurricanes dominated the Big East conference for most of the 90s, earning first place finishes and keeping the program in contention for National Titles. The addition of Ed Reed to the defensive rotation took the program to the next level. Reed worked his way to be a starter at free safety for the Hurricanes defense. Reed led the entire defensive secondary with 90 total tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles. That attention to detail, ability to create on defense helped the safety earn Freshman All-American Honors from multiple publications. Surviving on 29 cent McDonalds’ hamburgers and working odd jobs, the duo of Wayne and Reed managed to get through the day-to-day struggles of college life.
Off the field, Reed was earning modest wages. But between the lines, the safety had earned the respect of the Hurricanes’ locker room and national acclaim. Ed Reed helped elevate The U into another tier of dominance. Reed’s interception return against Boston College to help seal a comeback victory, demonstrated his ability as a playmaker on defense, it’s inexplicable how one man on the football field — that isn’t the quarterback — was able to turn the tide so often in his favor. That knack of making a play on defense resulted in UM career highs in interceptions (21), interceptions returned for a TD (4) and interception return yards (206). Holding himself and his teammates accountable, Reed’s impassioned speech during halftime against FSU in 2001 proves motivational many years removed. The collegiate accolades for No. 20 are numerous:
- 1998 Freshman All-American
- 1999 Big East Second Team Member
- 2000 Consensus All-American
- 2000 Consensus All Big East
- 2001 National Defensive Player of the Year (Named by Football News)
- 2001 Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year
- 2001 Consensus All-American
- 2001 Consensus All Big East
Capping it off with a national championship performance where Reed collected nine tackles to help UM win their fifth national championship in the Rose Bowl against Nebraska put the cherry on his legacy. A beaming personality that improved everyone he comes across, Ed Reed became the definition of a leader during his time at the University of Miami. Along with his accolades, skill set and dedication to the sport, Reed was selected 24th overall by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2002 NFL Draft. Joining the Baltimore Ravens meant that Reed would be on a team with fellow UM alum LB Ray Lewis.
Although playing in the shadow of Lewis would be daunting for most players, the pair had a bond that aided them in their quest for the same defensive dominance in the NFL that they fought for at The U. That penchant for tracking the ball in the air continued from the U to the NFL for Reed, earning a starting safety spot on Baltimore’s defense. Reed employed that same tireless work ethic from his younger days, incorporating the workout regimen from former UM strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey to handle the rigors of pro football. That hunger as a rookie led to the former Hurricane being named to the All Rookie team at the end of the 2002 season. Combine that with his dedication to review film and you come to understand why Ed Reed gets the jump not only on errant passes, but his competition as well. It’s part of the reason why — after just two seasons — Reed was named 2004 AP Defensive Player of the Year.
His list of accomplishments was already extensive as Reed entered the twilight of his career. Having been named a First-Team All-Pro (2004,’06,’07,’08,’10) and a nine-time Pro Bowler, there was just one final goal that had alluded Reed throughout his career: Winning a Super Bowl. In 2012, at Super Bowl XLVII, Reed finally got his chance to obtain that elusive championship ring. Adding to the already charged NFL Championship atmosphere, Reed had to deal with the avalanche of emotions from playing the game down the road from where he grew up. The love for his home state runs deep for the St. Rose, Louisiana, native — something Reed highlighted in a 2013 interview with New York Times reporter, Judy Battista. “I know the hustle that is in Louisiana,” Reed said. “Knowing where you are from, really where you’re from, helps you to help the community. That’s every city, but New Orleans is just different. We have big hearts, but it’s just a matter of us having the information, having the people to push you along like I had.” With the city of New Orleans serving as a the backdrop, the Ravens survived a blackout and a late resurgence from the San Francisco 49ers to emerge victorious. In his 11th season, Ed Reed crossed off the final objective on his career to-do list.
With the power of a linebacker, the speed of a cornerback and natural instincts that were unparalleled at his position, Ed Reed earned a PHD playing safety in the NFL. Off the field, Reed has gone out of his way to give back to his community, the sport and his alma mater. Steadfast in his belief that kids are the future, the former NFL star often instills his wisdom on future generations. Through the Ed Reed Foundation, the former safety has been able to execute his philanthropic efforts across the country. Some of the accomplishments of the foundation include:
- Financing a football scholarship for players who didn’t receive one.
- Sending clothes to a rival high school when their building was flooded.
- Hosting a four-day camp that combines football with fun activities, that is attended by local kids and coached by stars such as Ray Lewis and Reggie Wayne.
These days, Ed Reed can be found illustrating his love for teaching others, such as by coaching high school All-Americans or draft hopeful. When his instructor hat is not on, he’s jetting across the country for a round of golf or taking in the glorious sights that the country has to offer. Whether it’s sitting down with a nice cigar, listening to Frankie Beverly or running a camp, the Miami alum continues to be an ambassador for many communities he’s impacted throughout his life.
Reed’s eleven years in the NFL is a testament to his endurance and productivity as a player. With a spot in Canton reserved all to himself, tonight’s announcement confirms that his likeness will forever be on display in football’s great sanctuary. With a Golden bust set to be displayed and a golden jacket that will later be tailored to his measurements, the beacon of light that is Ed Reed only burns brighter since he took his final meaningful snap in a game.
Reed once summarized his career by saying, “God put me in a place where I need to be, to be the best that I could be.” On August 3rd, that place will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Congratulations Ed Reed!