People in Louisiana love a party – and will travel long distances to celebrate the good fortunes of one of their own.
A group estimated at more than 200 converged on Canton, Ohio, to help Ed Reed celebrate his induction Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2019.
“We have been here since Thursday,” said Clarence Dupepe, a retired athletic director of St. Charles Parish schools and a former teacher and coach of Reed at Destrehan High. “Friday, we got together for the photo shoot with all the older (Hall of Famers) with their gold jackets. We got to see him at the Hall of Fame Museum during the photo shoot.
“Friday night, there was an induction ceremony party and we go to see him and talk to him. We got a chance to see old coaches and former players that we haven’t seen in years.”
“To be here with Ed, it’s really just amazing,” said current Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux, who was Reed’s defensive coordinator in high school. “With all the people here and all the friends and family, it’s really a great time. It’s a great thing to experience.”
Robicheaux was part of a contingent of 26 people that traveled together from Destrehan to Canton to be part of Reed’s big moment.
“We had a chance to visit with a lot of our ex-players who are friends of Ed. A lot of his ex-coaches were there. It was just a great time with people who are familiar with Destrehan and Ed and it was a chance to catch up because on one great thing because of a special experience for Ed and we are just real excited to be a part of that,” said Robicheaux.
“I always said that if Ed ever got in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it didn’t matter what I was doing or where I was doing it, I was going to be there. I wouldn’t miss it for anything,” said Scott Martin.
Martin was Reed’s head coach at Destrehan and is now the coach at Ohatchee High in Alabama.
“It’s just such a surreal experience,” said Martin. “There are not that many people get to experience it in their lifetime.
“There are a lot of people who get the visit the Hall of Fame but not that many get to come up here and actually see their former player inducted. As of today, there will only be 326 pro football players in the Hall of Fame with 10s to 20 thousands that have played the game. It is rarified air.”
A first-round draft pick by Baltimore out of the University of Miami in 2002, Reed was a leader of a dominant Ravens defense and was a Super Bowl champion.
Reed, who played 11 seasons in Baltimore before concluding his 13-year career with the Houston Texans and New York Jets, finished with 64 interceptions in his career, including returning seven for touchdowns.
He led the NFL three times in interceptions. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Reed returned one of his interceptions 106 yards for a touchdown and another 107 yards. Reed intercepted nine passes in 15 career playoff games.
Reed’s big-play ability, said Robicheaux, was a result of talent and hard work.
“He was such a ballhawk,” Robicheaux said. “But you have to around the ball to be a ballhawk, so you know he does a lot of film study to make himself special. I think it’s a combination of a guy that truly wanted to be great and worked extremely hard to get there.”
“People always ask me, ‘how did you know he was going to be so good?’” said Martin. “We knew he was a great talent, our No. 1 job was just to not screw him up.
“We knew what type of talent he was, but as coaches, you don’t want to overload talent. You don’t want them to have to be thinkers. You want them to be reactors. Ed was such a great reactor on the football field on every level.”
Along with many other accomplishments, Reed became the first player from the River Parish area of St. Charles, St. James and St. John parishes to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“There are so many athletes that have come out of the River Parishes,” said Robicheaux. “That was always an expectation because of the level that football is played at in the River Parishes.
“For him to be the first – I’m sure he won’t be the last – to see him so excited about the situation is truly a blessing. It’s well earned. He was someone we were in contact with and kind of rolled up our sleeves and worked together, it’s truly amazing that he’s made it.”
To those who know Reed, he is more than just a football player.
“He hasn’t forgotten where he’s come from,” said Dupepe. “He always gives back. Every year, he comes to Destrehan and does the Ed Reed Football Camp for our kids.”
“What has made me the most proud is the man he has become today,” Martin said. “He’s become a giver. He gives back to everyone. He’s in the process of building a park in St. Rose. There are different things he’s done in Miami an Baltimore, and he’s not through.
“To be wise with your finances when you are going through the professional ranks – because a lot of them aren’t – to be able to come out on the other side, not only set for your life, but to be able to help other people improve their lives, what a great accomplishment.”
“I just wish everyone could met Ed Reed the person, other than Ed Reed the football player,” said Robicheaux. “As good as he is as a football guy, he’s that good of a person. All he ever wants is the kids to benefit from his story and make things easier for them and try to help as much as he can. It’s truly special that he does that because he really doesn’t have to do that. That makes him who he is and we’re just excited to be able to say that a guy we were able to come in contact with has made it to such a level is really amazing.”