I’ll acknowledge that as the resident sports editor out here in St. Charles Parish, shining a spotlight on those hometown heroes who do extraordinary things is simply part of the job.
But believe me when I tell you: my admiration and appreciation for one Edward Earl Reed Jr. far pre-dates my arrival here at the Herald-Guide. Reed was more than a great safety: his impact on games was truly unique.
He wore a hat that read “Ballhawk” when he arrived in Canton last week, and how appropriate that is. Because were one to test Reed over the years, they risked far, far more than an incompletion. He racked up the sixth most interceptions in NFL history; combined with his Miami Hurricanes record 21 pickoffs, that’s 85 in 219 total games – that’s an interception in about 40 percent of the games Reed played on the college and pro ranks.
Of course, when Reed intercepted the ball, losing a possession was often just the beginning of an offense’s worries.
Nobody’s got more return yardage on interceptions than Reed, a whopping 1,590 (or about 25 yards per return, more than all but five team averages for KICKOFF returns). He scored nine defensive touchdowns in his career. Anywhere he intercepted the ball, he was a threat: his returns of 107 and 106 yards and the longest in NFL history. Heck, if a team DID manage to corral Reed, a touchdown could still be imminent: Reed lateraling the ball to teammates to try and put a touchdown up was an iconic image, and one precious, precious few players will ever have the green light to attempt even once, let alone several times.
But that was Ed Reed.
One touchdown can mean so much more, particularly for a franchise like the Ravens that relied heavily upon its defense to win games. In 2011, near the end of Reed’s NFL career, a ESPN article detailing what a “pick six” means to a team noted that since the NFL/AFL merger, teams that return an interception for a touchdown were 1,187-343-3, posting a win percentage of 77.5.
So his big plays made a big impact.
The reputation he built through his play cultivated fear of throwing near him throughout the NFL, effectively limiting an offense’s options were they unwilling to test him.
The New England Patriots certainly respected him – and the Pats and Ravens waged plenty of high stakes battles over the years. Bill Belichick, who has been coaching in the NFL in some capacity since 1975, called Reed “the best weak (side) safety I’ve seen since I’ve been in the National Football League.”
Tom Brady expressed plenty of admiration as well, but the most effective was communicated through an action: upon the playcall sheet he wore on his wrist band in competition against Baltimore, he wrote a specific instruction to himself: “Find 20 on every play.”
I could go on forever about the impact he made on the field. But it also speaks volumes to note that while I didn’t know Reed personally, I’ve spoken with several who knew him extremely well over the years.
They’re all very quick to note that as great a player as Ed Reed was, he’s an even better person.
That just says it all.