As Ed Reed prepares to take his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, teammates, friends and coaches from his Ravens, college and high school years reflect on the legacy of the legendary Ravens safety with their favorite memories and never-before-heard stories.
As told to Glenn Clark
Courtney Aburn-Reisz is the program manager and development director for the Ed Reed Foundation.
Obviously, people here in Baltimore see Ed for what a wonderful football player on the field, but from his very first season here as a rookie in 2002 when he went to visit Booker T. Washington Middle School, which is in West Baltimore, he saw the kids there and the neighborhood there, and he saw himself in every single one of those kids and he said from that day in 2002, “I’m going to whatever I can to help these kids.” And that’s really how his foundation started. Ever since that very day, our foundation, led by Ed and his vision, has been providing opportunities to see these kids to get out of their environment, see different things. That was what his foundation as really rooted in.
When he was a kid in New Orleans, they didn’t have the opportunity or the resources to get out of their little neighborhood. And then in high school, he was taken on a football recruiting trip, and all of the sudden his world was opened up, and he knew he had to commit himself to his studies and his football in order to get himself out. And it’s not to say that he came from a bad home or anything, but he knew that there was so much more out there. And that’s really his foundation that speaks volumes. His work ethic is so clear with the football player he was, but he’s dedicated himself just as fully to his community work.
He hosts his annual football camps in New Orleans and in Baltimore every year for hundreds of kids, and he shows up to those as his best self. He gets on the field with those kids, that’s when his eyes light up. You can tell he connects with the kids so strongly, and while he has other NFL players and guest coaches and mentors there, Ed’s the one who will stand on the field when the camp ends and he will sign every single kid’s shirt, like an hour after the camp ends. He doesn’t just sign a few and dip out of the camp. He stands there as every single kid rotates through, and he makes sure every single kid and then the parents and their brothers and all that. The staff and some of the other volunteers are ready to get out of there as soon as the camp ends. We’ve been sweating for hours in the New Orleans heat and then it’s like, “Nope, I’ve got to sign every single kid’s shirt.” That’s just who he is.
Something as simple as that kid getting a signature could totally change that kid’s path and he really, truly believes in that. The Richmond field trips that we take kids on from Booker T. — and we send them to every Ravens home game — seem so simple to most of us, but to those kids it’s this eye-opening experience where they’ve never seen a stadium. They live a mile down the road; they’ve never seen people gather for the tailgate. They’re like, “What is this? What are all these people doing?” It’s not to say that what we do isn’t huge, but it’s about those little, tiny things that push these kids to say, “OK, if I commit myself a little harder to my studies or I get my act a little more straight, that’ll help me get to the next level in whatever I’m doing, whether it’s going to high school or graduating, going to college, whatever it may be. That completely speaks to Ed’s character and what his foundation is rooted it in.
To read more memories of No. 20, visit PressBoxOnline.com/Reed.
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox
Issue 255: June/July 2019