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Reed Embraces Return to Alma Mater

By Christy Cabrera Chirinos
Ed Reed stood at the front of the room, smiled and began speaking.
“Man, what a journey,” he said. “I’m glad to be back.”
On a day when Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz addressed all the changes and additions to the Miami football program, there was no denying this moment – the one highlighting Reed’s return to his alma mater – was special, for both the Hurricanes and the Miami legend himself.
Reed, a College and Pro Football Hall of Famer, was named the Hurricanes’ new chief of staff last week. In his new role, he’ll serve as an advisor to Diaz and the rest of the coaching staff and will assist on everything from player evaluation and player development to team building and recruiting, as permitted by the NCAA.
But it’s the opportunity to serve as a mentor to the current Hurricanes that seemed to spark Reed’s passion on Wednesday, when he made his first public comments since taking on his new role at a place that so clearly still means so much to him.
“You know, I’m from a small town in Louisiana, where kids don’t have the structure to be successful in life,” Reed said. “Yes, I’ve become a Hall of Famer at every level – college, high school and the pros. But that has helped me to be a light and a role model for a lot of kids that follow in our footsteps. … We need to set a great example for the youth and that’s what we’re here to do for our kids. We have to set a great example for them.
“If we’re together as a coaches, as a staff, supporting each other, encouraging each other, agreeing to disagree and keep it moving. … we’ll be okay. We’ll be just fine, man. I think the road that I’ve traveled has helped.”
For the 41-year-old Reed, that road – even during his time at Miami – has taken turns.
He first arrived in Coral Gables during one of the darkest times in program history, when the Hurricanes, hampered by NCAA sanctions, limped to a 5-6 record in 1997.
Reed redshirted that season, but a year later, had a team-high two interceptions, four forced fumbles and was third on the Miami defense with 90 tackles.
He’d go on to finish his Hurricanes career as a national champion and his name is still all over the Miami record book, his 21 career interceptions still the most in program history.
A first round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2002, Reed was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, a six-time All-Pro honoree and the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Ravens would make three AFC Championship Game appearances with Reed on their defense and in 2013, the safety had an interception in the Ravens’ 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.
After brief stints with the Houston Texans and New York Jets, Reed retired in 2015 after totaling 643 tackles and 64 interceptions, seven of which he returned for touchdowns.
He was inducted into the UM Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018 and last August, was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The glittering football resume made him a natural fit for the Hurricanes’ chief of staff position.
But, it wasn’t just Reed’s knowledge of X’s and O’s that made him the right fit, Diaz said.
“It’s a job to me, that No. 1, is going to serve as a sounding board, as an advisor to me. Another set of eyes, somebody who sometimes can see things that I can’t see at practice, see things I can’t see at a workout and kind of come to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m not liking the body language of this guy,’ or might have something to say about an interaction between a player and a player or an interaction between a player and a coach,” Diaz said. “He might be a guy that can go into the locker room after practice and put his arm around a player and kind of talk about, ‘Hey, what’s going on in your life? What’s going on?’ He can serve as a mentor to our players because he’s not in that direct role of being on the coaching staff.
“Certainly, in terms of, whether it’s behind the scenes, in the meeting rooms, he can help evaluate in terms of everything we’re doing. Whether it’s a supporting thing or playing devil’s advocate, just to make sure we’re making the right decisions in everything we do. When you talk about a guy like Ed Reed, there are so many thing that make him unique and special that go way beyond what he did as a football player. Obviously, his football resume would stand up on its own. But that’s not really going to tell the story, for me, of who Ed Reed is. His ability to understand team dynamics, understand team chemistry, team culture. … is elite. … His ability to understand locker room dynamics, who wouldn’t benefit from having that in their football program, in addition to all he knows about the game and then a great mentor to our players.”
For his part, Reed on Wednesday made it clear he’s willing to do all of that – and more.
He wants to inspire. He wants to teach. He wants to guide. And he wants to make sure the players now wearing orange and green and working on the same Greentree Practice Fields where he once toiled, understand there is a standard at Miami that must be upheld.
“I’ve had mentors get me to this stage. I didn’t get here by mistake. It was bigger than football. You had to surround yourself with the right people. That’s what we’re trying to get these kids to understand. If they’re doing certain things off the field, we have to address that,” Reed said.
He continued, “I can tell parents now, I can tell those kids now, if you don’t want to be here, don’t come here. If you don’t want to work hard, don’t come here. If you don’t want to compete, don’t come here. Not while I’m around. Not while these coaches are around.”
As to why a three-time Hall of Famer whose calendar is already plenty busy with a number of responsibilities, including raising his 11-year-old son, would want to add another task to his plate, Reed said it was simple.
“I’m always orange and green, man. That’s in my heart. It’s in my blood,” he said. “Once you become a part of this University, you want to do anything and everything for it. … It had nothing to do with last season. I know we didn’t like what we saw. Nobody accepted that. Manny definitely didn’t accept that and that’s something we talked about.
“But that’s last year. We went 5-6 my first season here and then we came back and had a great year. Years later, we won the national championship. It’s a process and we have a process going on. … That’s part of me trying to help, to figure out what’s needed to get us on that track of fulfilling that standard that we have here.”