Peter Schmuck

Schmuck: Ed Reed was a study in contrasts, but that's what made him a Hall of Famer

Longtime Ravens safety Ed Reed has always been something of a contradiction, but that’s what made him the player who on Saturday was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

He was the guy who pulled off a pick-six from 7 yards deep in his own end zone — an NFL record — when most defensive backs would have taken a knee and accepted having their touchdown-saving turnover start the offense at the 20-yard line.


He was also the guy who frustrated coaches by endangering many of his 64 career interceptions by trying to pitch the ball to teammates for more return yards.

Whether on the field or off, Reed has always done his own thing. Yet he told The Baltimore Sun this week that the bronze bust he’ll soon be able to visit in Canton, Ohio, “is not an individual award.”


Of course, he’s correct. There were all sorts of people throughout his life and career whom he’ll mention when he’s inducted this summer. There are teammates from his 12 NFL seasons who impacted his career on a personal and professional level. He was one of the best ever in what is viewed by many as the ultimate team sport.

Still, it was his unique personality and stubborn confidence in his own instincts and on-field judgment that allowed him to stand out on a Ravens team with one player, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, who was literally larger than life and another, linebacker Ray Lewis, who sucked the air out of every room he ever entered.

While Ogden was physically dominating and Lewis was personally dynamic, Reed was a man of mystery and intrigue. Off the field, he could be friendly and engaging or quiet and withdrawn. On the field, he had an almost cosmic sense of where the football would end up after it left the quarterback’s hand.

Former coach Brian Billick was right when he used to say that when you played the Ravens, you had better know where Reed was at all times. But what difference did that make when Reed had already figured out where he needed to be at the end of each play?

So it was pretty much a lock that he would gain induction in his first year under consideration. His individual records and cumulative numbers demanded that. The Ravens’ success during a career that included a Super Bowl title and seven playoff runs removed all doubt.

Reed wasn’t the fastest guy at the NFL scouting combine in 2002, the year the Ravens took him with the 24th overall pick, but he was one of those “it” guys from the University of Miami, like Ray Lewis and Bennie Blades and Sean Taylor. He made things happen, and he made enough of an impression on Ozzie Newsome that the Ravens general manager was willing to overlook the so-so 40-yard-dash time in favor of the innate quality that separates an average NFL player from a star.

When the Hurricanes needed a big play, Reed proved to be a big-time playmaker. He still holds the school’s career record for interceptions (21) and interception returns for touchdowns (four). You can go to YouTube and see his famous play against Boston College in 2001 when he yanked the football out of the hands of teammate Matt Walters, a lineman, and sprinted 80 yards to complete a game-breaking 91-yard interception return for a toudhdown.

In December, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for a 'Canes career that also included four bowl games and a national championship. He was inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor in 2015.


Now the circle is unbroken.

His NFL heroics and community involvement in Baltimore are well documented, and his place among the city’s greatest sports heroes — and there are many — is assured.