NEW ORLEANS -- Ed Reed is a Louisiana man through and through, from the Southern drawl to his affinity for down-home cooking.
So although this Super Bowl ride is something new, in a way, it’s also as familiar as humidity in the Louisiana summertime.
Before Reed, a member of the Baltimore Ravens for all 11 seasons of his NFL career, was one of the most dangerous safeties to ever play the game, he was a St. Rose, La., kid with a dream — and a long walk home.
Years ago, Reed would trudge to football practice, alone, at night. That meant he would have to lug his own pads, which he covered with a shirt belonging to his father.
Those memories have flooded his soul this week, as prepares to face the 49ers in a Super Bowl held just 20 miles from his childhood home.
“Everything really gets put into perspective when you get to this point, and you’re just really appreciative of the people that help you get here,” a wistful Reed said Tuesday. “You just think about everything.”
These days, Reed doesn’t have to carry anything — except the Ravens’ defense from time to time.
Reed’s record-breaking career has made him a sure-fire Hall of Famer, and a hero in his home state.
“I’m very emotional,” Reed said. “It was very emotional when we won in New England [in the AFC Championship Game]. I just was all tears, tears of joy. I cried like a baby. I really did.
“There’s just so much I can say about it, I’m just speechless. It really hits you in the heart because this is the highest point that you can get to in football.”
Although this is Reed’s first Super Bowl, Tuesday wasn’t his first Media Day.
He was part of the madness once before, on this same Superdome floor, as a kid. Reed won his local punt, pass and kick championship and earned an invitation to the pre-Super Bowl media extravaganza 16 years ago.
Reed was a footnote that year. He’s one of the main attractions this time around — and could be the key to the Ravens’ hopes.
Ray Lewis has been the inspirational leader in Baltimore for nearly two decades, but Reed, a fellow former Miami Hurricanes star, has arguably been just as good a player — particularly over the past five years.
In his career, Reed — who won a national championship at UM in 2001 — has been selected to nine Pro Bowls and amassed more interception-return yards (1,541) than any player in NFL history.
“In my opinion, there are only two safeties that come up as the greatest safeties of all time — it’s him and Ronnie Lott,” teammate Brendon Ayanbadejo said. “He’s a great player; it’s amazing that he gets to play here at the Super Bowl at home in New Orleans, with all of the tragedy and stuff that he has gone through.”
Two years ago, when the Ravens were in another playoff push, Reed’s brother Brian drowned when he jumped into the Mississippi River after an encounter with law enforcement just outside of New Orleans.
Ed Reed gets back to Louisiana as often as he can, and planned to head back to St. Rose on Wednesday to see his mother, Karen — not to mention eat her cooking.
Like Lewis — who plans to retire after the Super Bowl — Reed is nearing the end of his career. He refused to say whether the Super Bowl will be his final game, but few would blame him if it was.
Reed has battled a host of injuries throughout his career, including a nerve impingement that has dogged him for at least six years.
“I’ll assess those things after this game,” Reed said of retirement. “I’m just soaking all this in right now. I’m not thinking about next year.
“I’m so far away from tomorrow, honestly.”
But with family and friends everywhere he turns this week, yesterday isn’t nearly so far.