Ed Reed said he didn’t want to take up too much time, but given his emotions and the occasion being what it was, he spent 36 minutes talking Saturday night during his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech.
The beloved former Ravens safety—who is known for 11 years in Baltimore, 61 interceptions in purple and black, a Super Bowl win, and so many other fun memories like record-setting touchdowns of 107 and 106 yards—admittedly wrote parts of his speech on-the-fly (actually, on-the-scene) while he sat on stage in Canton, Ohio, and listened to the other 2019 inductees deliver their own thoughts. Reed went sixth, and when it was his turn, he took his phone from the jacket pocket of the trademark gold blazer that football Hall-of-Famers are gifted, and started reading.
"This little light of mine,” Reed said. “I had to let it shine."
Here are 10 more wise and entertaining anecdotes from Reed’s coronation as one of football’s all-time greats:
- One point that Reed clearly wanted to articulate was that the people you surround yourself with, and the decisions you make, matter. Reed, now 40, talked about how he grew up in a crime-infested (yeah, he said that word) part of New Orleans where he had the choice to get involved in the drug scene. “You quickly become the things you hang around. Your environment is key,” he said. “I made the choice not to hang around people who were selling drugs, or guys who weren’t going to school.”
- He told a story about a police officer in Shrewsbury, Louisiana—who encouraged Reed to follow the “right” path: "I had to mature real fast because of my environment—crime, drugs, police, all kinds of things going on,” Reed said. "We were always taught to run from the police, and dodge the police officers. [But] it wasn’t always bad police, like people think. I remember one time, I’m yelling back to my cousins because most of them were selling drugs or something. I was yelling that the police were coming and the officer heard me. He called me to his car and he said, ‘Come here young man, get in the back.’ I lost it. ... He said, ‘I’m taking you home.’ I said, ‘Oh my god, don’t do that. Take me to jail.’ … Because my momma’s home. I can remember him saying, 'I see you around here, playing sports. You don’t need to be hanging with those other kids and other guys, because you have something.'"
- Reed spoke much more about his parents, Ed Reed Sr. and Karen—as well as his siblings and other mentors—who allowed him to live during his junior and senior years at Destrehan High School at the home of the principal’s secretary. “I needed a different environment,” Reed said. Jeanne Hall took Reed “under her wing,” and helped him get the ACT standardized-test scores he needed to get into college. This is part of the reason why Reed has been so involved in charity work at Booker T. Washington Middle School in West Baltimore for the last two decades. Somewhat related, on parenting in general, Reed said: “Your job is to provide and nurture an environment for your child to grow up. Raise them to leave the house, not to stay. You don’t want kids at 30 and 40 years old putting their name on the milk.”
- There were other light-hearted moments, too, like when Reed acknowledged that the 2001 national championship team that he played on at the University of Miami wouldn’t beat any NFL teams like some observers said they could. In the same breath, he couldn’t help but take a backhanded swipe at two of the Ravens’ division opponents. “I would not disrespect this league, not even those Cincinnati Bengals, hold on, or the Cleveland Browns,” Reed said to laughter and a few boos in the crowd (he was in Ohio, after all), before pausing and saying, “I have the utmost respect for both of those organizations. I have 30 picks between them, too. Not my fault y’all change quarterbacks.”
- After saying, “There’s no place like BALTIMORE!” Reed accidentally thanked New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick (oops!) instead of his former head coach Brian Billick while acknowledging past and current members of the Ravens front office. It might’ve been a Freudian slip, as Reed has recently told Belichick he wants to be part of the Patriots coaching staff. In any case, current coach John Harbaugh’s reaction was completely appropriate…
- On showing up to Baltimore for his first public appearance as a rookie, wearing a throwback Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown jersey, Reed said: “Baltimore booed me… I walk on stage and they’re like ‘Take it off! Take it off!’ I took it off and y’all loved me ever since. I loved it all. especially when I heard that “Reeeeeed!” in M&T Bank Stadium. What I wouldn’t give for one more interception.”
- On what he might be doing if he weren’t giving this speech: “I’d rather be smoking a cigar, just chillin’, taking my time.”
- On his bronze bust, which must be one of the best likenesses that will ever be displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame: “I look just like the guy.”
- Reed also spoke about the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which happened just hours before the Hall of Fame ceremony: “In general, across this country, it’s something we really need to address. I ask America, what’s our standard?”
- And, finally, a few big-picture parting thoughts that he wanted to leave everyone with: “I never compared myself to any other player, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to anybody else or worry about the people who don’t like you,” Reed said. “Everyone has their own greatness, and you reach your own greatness [depending] on your environment and structure, the company you keep, and your attitude. There will be good and bad, right and wrong. Your reaction and choice—good or bad—has consequences that affect you and those around you. Help somebody. That’s what we’re supposed to. That’s what being human is about, leaving this place better than we got it.”