What started as a standard post-Super Bowl interview about the playbook and the power outage turned into one of the most powerful and poignant moments of the entire week.
Ed Reed, despite being arguably the greatest safety of the modern era, was largely overlooked in the run up to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. Much of the ink went to the Harbaugh brotherhood and Ray Lewis' show of faith. But Reed, with his shock of gray hair and baritone voice, has a gravitas that makes him as much of a leader as his much-hyped teammate and his star head coach. And in an on-set interview with NFL Network on Sunday night, Reed spoke about brotherhood and faith in a moment that immediately transcended even the NFL's biggest stage.
"I sat in that room all week," Reed told Deion Sanders (3:30 mark of video above). "I ain't cut the TV on all this week , just looking at that river, thinking about my brother."
Reed began by talking about how he didn't watch TV all week, preferring instead to look out the window at the Mississippi River. Two years ago, Reed's brother, Brian, ran out of gas not far from New Orleans and a police officer stopped to help. A deputy radioed in to say the car was not authorized, and Brian started to run. He apparently jumped into the river, where his body was found weeks later.
Sanders put his right arm around Reed, and the safety broke down.
He collected himself and mentioned late owner Art Modell, and the little brother of receiver Torrey Smith, who passed away earlier this season.
"Everything we went through to get this," he said, voice cracking. "It's like the exclamation mark on my career."
Then Reed launched into a mini-sermon about religion. Now in some cases, maybe in most cases, sports fans don't want to hear about Jesus. A lot of people think it's silly that a higher power could possibly care about the outcome of a football game, or help one team win because of prayer or devotion. Yet Reed's speech hit a different note, about humility and humanity. And it was hard not to be in the moment with him.
"It's not about me," Reed said. "I'm gonna do my little part. I'm not perfect. I'm gonna do my little part to help these kids, to give them the information to be better men."
It's possible Reed was alluding to his brother, who reportedly had battles with mental illness. In a New York Times story last week, writer Judy Battista quoted Reed's high school coach, who wondered if Reed felt he could have helped had he been with his brother that day. But whoever Reed was addressing Sunday night, the Ravens safety sent a message we can all heed: we can all reach out, because we often don't know who's suffering until it's too late.
"We need to stop judging," Reed said. "Help each other, encourage each other. I know it's tough times, but we need to help each other, encourage each other."
Reed is a big brother not only to Brian, but to teammates on the Ravens and the Miami Hurricanes before that. That's really the greatness of Reed, even apart from his ability to see plays before they happen.
Lewis wasn't much of a factor on Super Bowl Sunday, but Reed had an interception and made the game-saving tackle on Frank Gore late in the fourth quarter. He sees the bigger picture, both on and off the field, and that kind of player comes along just as rarely as someone like Ray Lewis.
Super Bowl XLVII will be remembered for the Harbaugh brothers and for Ray Lewis' preaching and for the power outage. But Reed's preaching about brotherhood should stay with those who saw it for a long time.
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