Being named to the 2019 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame may have put the final stamp of approval on the career of Ed Reed, but those who knew the Baltimore Ravens safety earlier in his life knew he was destined for greatness long ago.
“As a high school player, we realized early-on from the first day I was there (at Destrehan High) there was talk that, ‘man, I hope he’s with us the whole time because he is a heck of a football player. I know other people wanted him to go to one of the private schools or whatever but he stuck with his home school. It says a lot about him. He represented himself well. He was all-state numerous times in other sports as well as football,” said Scott Martin, head coach at Destrehan during Reed’s sophomore through junior seasons from 1994-96.
“It was just his athletic ability. He’s a kid that worked extremely hard and was always such a great athlete. The thing you noticed early was that he could do anything. He was a basketball guy, a track guy, a baseball guy,” said Stephen Robicheaux, Destrehan’s current head coach who was defensive coordinator during Reed’s playing days with the Wildcats.
“He was by far the best athlete around,” said Craig Perrier, a high school teammate of Reed. “Everybody wanted to be in Edward’s presence. He made everybody laugh. He was a jokester but when it was time to work, it was like flipping a switch. If you needed a big play, you knew he was coming up with it.
“It wasn’t surprising watching him in pro football and even in college, you knew he was going to be around the ball. He played baseball and basketball. He probably could have been a Hall of Fame baseball player if he wanted to.”
As a freshman, Reed returned kicks in the Louisiana Superdome when Destrehan played for the state title in 1993.
He went on the star not only as a return man and defensive back during his high school career, but also was a quarterback and running back.
Reed went on to demonstrate his prowess as an athlete, winning a quarterback challenge against top quarterbacks in the country after he was no longer playing the position,
“We were playing Rummel and it was his senior year. We were tied 0-0 at halftime. Ed was totally wiped out and cramped up. We got crushed in the second half. From that moment on, we decided his future is on the defensive side of the football. He’s a playmaker. We ended up moving him just to defensive back, but then he went out and won an elite quarterback challenge when he wasn’t even playing quarterback,” Martin recalled.
An example of Reed’s all-around talent was fully in display one spring afternoon.
“They were at a district track meet going on while a baseball game was going on at the same time. He was going back and forth. He’d go run track and then all of sudden, he’s playing baseball. That’s the type of athlete he was,” said Robicheaux.
“He went run the relay and then he came right and played baseball with us,” Perrier remembered.
As a high school player at Destrehan, through his years at the University of Miami and in the NFL, Reed had a reputation as a ballhawk with a special knack of anticipating where the opposing quarterback was going to throw the ball.
Many credited the ability as natural talent, but hard work also was involved.
“Where he didn’t stop was in the film room,” said Perrier. “We didn’t understand that as high school players but he was always watching film. He would say, ‘when he (an opponent) does this, we can do this.’ You hear guys talk about how that now how he did that in pro football but he was doing that way back in high school.”
Before any official announcement, those who knew Reed had him pegged as a Hall of Fame philanthropist.
“Everybody sees him as the best safety that’s probably ever played but we see for what he does for kids. People don’t know he donated equipment for our new weight room. He comes back and does a camp for the kids every year. The camp is about the kids. It’s all about the kids and the community,” said Robicheaux.
Robicheaux recalled an incident at one camp that was typical of Reed.
“We had a four-day camp with 200 kids and he said, ‘Coach, I want to take each kid to go bowling one day.’ That’s a logistical nightmare to try and get 200 kids to go bowling, but he made it work and we made it work. That’s just how he is. Some of these kids had never experienced that,” Robicheaux said.
Reed, along with former Lutcher High and current NFL receiver Jarvis Landry, sponsor the annual River Parish Football Jamboree.
He’s also done things in a more behind-the-scenes sort of way.
“He’s actually bought rings for our kids. He and another guy bought rings when we won state championships,” said Robicheaux. “He’s given back so much to the kids and the community. He’s that type of person.”
If anything, Reed has managed to stay more visible following his playing days.
“As great a football player as he is, I think he’s a better person,” said Martin. “He’s just a philanthropist in the things he’s given back. He’s not afraid to give. It just says a lot about the type of character he is. I’ve just been so impressed with everything he has done outside of football, as well as in football.
“Some people go into a shell and hoard everything and just disappears after it’s (pro career) is over but he’s gone the opposite direction”
He’s also managed to do so while retaining a down-home attitude, according to Perrier.
“He is probably a greater human than an athlete. He never turns his back on any kid. No matter how tired he is or how he’s feeling – he may just be getting off a plane from somewhere and comes to a Destrehan game – everybody he comes up to, it’s, ‘how are you doing? How’s your mom?’ Everybody knows everybody but he will give everybody a few seconds with them and not ‘big league’ them at all. He doesn’t see himself as a Hall of Famer. He seems himself as the guy who worked hard and had fun playing the game.”