Many believe Ed Reed is the best safety in the history of the game. His contribution to the Baltimore Ravens franchise cannot be overstated. On Saturday, the NFL’s premier ballhawk will deservedly be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Baltimore Beatdown contributor’s tribute to the unforgettable Ed Reed:
Ed Reed’s my favorite football player of all time. He was a player I looked up to as a young child in Gillette, Wyoming. Hell, I imagined myself as Reed when I played backyard football with my friends. I dreamt of becoming an NFL safety who could lay the wood on a receiver, pluck the football from sure hands, and, most importantly, take it all the way back to the house while a stadium roars my name in unison.
To summarize Reed, I’ll use two plays. The first is Reed intercepting Jeff Garcia and taking it 106 yards to the opposite endzone. This shattered a 16-year old NFL record for the longest interception return by three yards.
The second play is Reed doing the same damn thing four years later but adding an extra yard for good measure. Now, when you read the NFL’s all-time records, it goes:
Longest Interception Return
107 Ed Reed
106 Ed Reed
To me, he’s unrivaled; He’s the greatest of all time. He set himself apart from all other safeties. So much so that in the record books, he’s only beside himself. - Kyle P. Barber
Reed earned an extensive list of accomplishments during his distinguished career. Super Bowl champion, Defensive Player of the Year, eight-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler, the record for most interception return yards, tied for the most postseason interceptions, and now a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Perhaps his greatest accomplishment was providing the Baltimore fanbase with hope. No matter how poorly the offense was performing or how bleak the situation appeared, 20’s uncanny ability to flip the scoreboard on a single play was always possible. Countless memorable game changing plays were made in clutch moments. In many ways, Reed provided the backbone for the Ravens defensive dynasty.
Reed had a unique personality on the field, both brash and humble at the same time. He marched to the beat of his own drum, an admirable characteristic. After many of his takeaways, the hometown crowd would chant his name for minutes until Ed finally waived his hand in acknowledgement of his fans. Reed’s passion for excellence instilled civic pride throughout Baltimore.
After carrying an inept offense early in tenure and later suffering playoff heartbreak on multiple occasions, nothing was sweeter than watching Reed hoist the Lombardi trophy in his hometown of New Orleans. All of the hard work, film study, training and struggles to play through injury finally paid off in his final opportunity for glory.
It was an absolute honor and a privilege to watch Ed Reed play for our Ravens. Truly the greatest of all time. - Vasilis Lericos
There’s not much to say about Ed Reed that hasn’t already been said. From start to finish, Reed cemented his legacy in Baltimore as a infectious leader on and off the field. His accolades are fruitful but fail to tell the whole story. Reed impacted the game unlike almost any other defensive player. Between highlight interceptions, touchdown returns, and big hits, we’ll probably never seen another Ed Reed in our lifetime.
His Hall of Fame honor is well-deserved and the fact that he and Ray Lewis are being inducted in back-to-back years is awesome. In my humble estimation, Reed is the greatest safety who's ever played the game. Congrats, Ed, and we miss you in Baltimore! - Frank J. Platko
Ed Reed is the smartest defensive back to walk the face of the Earth. Rex Ryan recalled a story about when the Ravens faced the Redskins on prime-time. The offense sputtered and couldn’t score (as they typically did during Reed’s tenure). Reed asked Ryan to call a play for him so he could change the game, so Ryan sent Reed on a blitz. The result was a strip of Mark Brunell that Reed scooped up seamlessly on his way to the end zone.
He was the ultimate playmaker and ball hawk. My favorite aspect of Reed was the fact that he was usually one of the smallest players on the field, yet made many ball carriers pay for catching the ball in his zone. Watching a 200 pound safety blow up screens by taking out offensive lineman and ball carriers was a joy to watch. His talent, smarts and commitment to the game were undeniable. He deserves a gold jacket as much as anyone I’ve personally seen play the game. Thank you for what you did for the city of Baltimore, Ed. Cheers to you. - Spencer Schultz
It’s hard to fully quantify just how dominant Reed was as a ball hawking centerfield safety. His numbers are certainly part of the conversation, but to me, the greatest thing about Reed was the respect he engendered from not only his peers, but the very best among them.
To remind himself of Reed’s presence when playing the Ravens, Tom Brady scribbled “find 20 on every play,” onto his play call wristband; prior to a 2009 regular season game, Bill Belichick remarked how hard it was to gameplan for him - “Everything, he does, he does at an exceptional level.”
To me, that’s what it’s all about when it comes to playing a position that requires such versatility: being able to not only do one thing but doing multiple things, and making an impact whilst doing them.
Reed did so as a rangy playmaker, a big hitter earlier in his career, a returner, and as a legitimate offensive type weapon when he got the ball in his hands. Terrell Owens once said that when he gets the ball “it’s like offense on defense.”
When the goal of the game is to score points, being so prolific in doing so or facilitating doing so when you don’t even play a position conducive to that is something truly remarkable. His unique style of play combined with an intense but professional and team oriented personality makes him a certifiable legend and more than worthy of a first ballot Hall of Fame selection.
As Belichick told him prior to that ‘09 game: “You’re the greatest free safety that’s ever played this game. You’re awesome.” No disagreement here. - Jake Louque