Add another chapter to the legend of Ed Reed – first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Reed was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, becoming the third player drafted by the Ravens to reach Canton on the first ballot, joining left tackle Jonathan Ogden, inducted in 2013, and inside linebacker Ray Lewis, inducted in 2018.
Reed had a brief message for Ravens’ fans from his hotel room in Atlanta, where he received official word of his induction.
“Y’all didn’t have to wait that long, Ravens’ fans,” Reed said. “I figured about three or four years into Baltimore, you knew it was coming eventually.
“Baltimore is my heart. The fans are family. I still work in the community. They embraced me just like I was home. I love Baltimore fans. Baltimore fans know that. Baltimore is everything to me.”
Reed redefined how the safety position was played with a remarkable combination of athleticism, intellect, and daring. He was electrifying not only as a defender, but whenever he had the football.
Reed holds the NFL record for interception return yards (1,590 yards), and has the two longest interception returns in league history – a 107-yard return in 2008 and a 106-yard return in 2004. He ranks seventh on the NFL’s all-time list with 64 interceptions (regular season), and he has nine postseason interceptions.
In his 11 seasons with the Ravens, Reed went to the Pro Bowl nine times, he was a first-team All-Pro five times, and he was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. Reed capped his final season in Baltimore (2012) by winning a championship, with an interception in Super Bowl XLVII during the Ravens’ 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
That was typical Reed, making a big play at a critical moment. Becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer cements his place among the game’s greatest players.
“Ed is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, and he is my brother for life,” said Lewis, who played with Reed during his 11 seasons in Baltimore. “His talents, work ethic and leadership are unmatched, and it was such a pleasure to play with this great man for so many years. Nothing will ever be like ‘Sugar’ (Lewis) and ‘Quick’ (Reed). To win back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2003 (Lewis) and 2004 – and now to be back-to-back Hall of Famers – well, it is amazing. Congrats, my brother. I am so proud to welcome you in to our ‘new’ team.”
Reed did not enter the NFL as a can’t-miss prospect. The Ravens selected him with the 24th pick in the 2002 draft and he was ranked 24th on their draft board. However, Reed obliterated expectations by becoming a defensive player who could dominate games. His 21 career interceptions and 389 interception return yards are still school records at the University of Miami.
To appreciate Reed’s greatness, you couldn’t rely on his measurements, his speed, or his Pro Day workout. You had to watch him play football, where he could display his surreal instincts. Nobody saw the game or reacted to what he saw quite like Reed.
“Ed was among the smartest and most remarkable, clutch playmakers in NFL history,” Ravens General Manager Eric DeCosta said. “You never felt the game was out of reach when No. 20 was on the field.”
Reed’s passion for preparation was a key to his success. He spent many weeknights studying game film at his home, often inviting teammates over to watch with him. Reed was able to anticipate plays and outthink quarterbacks and had the physical talent to capitalize on what he saw.
“I coached Ray Lewis and (Hall of Fame linebacker) Lawrence Taylor, and Ed could disrupt a game as much as those two,” former Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. “It was his range – simply amazing. No deep ball was out of his reach, and he disguised his coverages better than anyone ever. He was so smart and took away quarterbacks’ first reads all the time. He had them confused.’
This year’s Hall of Fame class will be inducted during a ceremony Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio. But the suspense for Reed ended Saturday when his much-anticipated Hall of Fame membership became official.