Drew Brees, Curtis Johnson marvel at new Hall of Famer Ed Reed
METAIRIE – New Orleans Saints assistant coach Curtis Johnson was there at the beginning of Ed Reed’s football career.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees played against Reed at the peak of the St. Rose native’s stellar career as a safety, which will be immortalized Saturday when he’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Both Johnson and Brees marveled at the Reed they saw, though from different perspectives.
Johnson, New Orleans’ senior offensive assistant, was an assistant at the University of Miami some 20 years ago. The Hurricanes were coming off of NCAA probation and scrambling to replenish their talent level.
Coach Butch Davis had his coaches “looking in any crack and crevice,” Johnson said. “We knew Ed was a talented guy.”
He also was easy for Johnson to find since their homes in St. Rose were just two streets apart.
“The best thing I loved about Ed Reed is we’re from the same hometown,” Johnson said with a smile. “He finally put St. Rose in the map.”
Along with Destrehan High School.
“He was smart beyond his years,” Johnson said. “He had old-man wisdom. He also was athletic. Ed played offense, defense, he played fullback, he played safety in high school.”
“He asked the right questions about recruiting. It wasn’t about playing. It was always about graduating. It was always about his leadership, about doing the right thing. ‘Are you guys going to be hard on me? Are you going to be disciplined?’ That’s why I’ve always loved Ed.”
Johnson said Reed still communicates with him regularly.
“He’s a vast communicator,” Johnson said. “For a guy like Ed to go in the Hall of Fame, it’s phenomenal. I swell up with pride.”
Johnson said Reed “is a guy who truly gives back” and he visits his old high school “all the time.”
“I think you can get Ed to do anything,” Johnson said with a laugh. “He’ll come to your kid’s birthday party. I guarantee if you ask him, he won’t say no.”
Brees remembers facing a six-time All-Pro, a nine-time Pro Bowler, who led the NFL in interceptions three times, was NFL Defensive Player of Year in 2004, someone who made 64 career interceptions, accumulated an NFL-record 1,590 interception return yards, including the two-longest in NFL history (107 and 106 yards) among his seven interception returns for touchdown.
Reed was a leader on seven playoff teams, four division winners and the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl XLVII champions.
“Oh, man,” Brees said when asked about Reed. “I mean truly one of those guys that you had to know where he was and he was in the middle of the field (the) majority of the time because he was just such a ballhawk safety and had such great fielding instincts.
“Balls that you could throw and fit in against everybody else, that just wasn’t going to happen against Ed Reed unless he was way out of the picture, right?”
Brees, who undoubtedly will join Reed in the Hall of Fame shortly after he retires, remembered what it was like as a young quarterback studying film of Reed while preparing to face him.
“The ball would be snapped and the quarterback would maybe take just a couple steps into his drop and Ed Reed would just go, he would go somewhere,” Brees said. “You would say, ‘what is he looking at?’ And all of a sudden, here is the quarterback, he is looking, ball is thrown and he’s there to make the play.
“And it is like, but he was not supposed to be there. And so, from a quarterback’s perspective, it’s frustrating because you’re like, at the snap I look forward and he was there and I looked over here and he wasn’t supposed to be there. It’s just that knowledge and understanding of the game, just a great feel for the game, extreme intelligence and then playmaking ability.”
Johnson was asked if Reed, who will be inducted into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame on Aug. 10, was the best safety of his era.
“I don’t think there’s a safety with the range and the ability to track the ball, catch the ball and return the ball,” he said.
The induction ceremony, which takes place in Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, named after the late Saints owner, will have a strong Louisiana flavor.
Two former LSU stars are classmates of Reed’s in the eight-member group – safety Johnny Robinson (a native of Delhi, Louisiana) and offensive lineman Kevin Mawae.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…