Most people think of the Baltimore Ravens as a dominant defense, like Ray Lewis. However, Ed Reed is a close second. The all-pro safety is not just a hard-hitting ball hawk. He’s a true brother of the leaf.
Reed’s story begins in small-town Louisiana, where he starred in multiple sports. He has said that Michael Jordan was his first hero and a model for excellence. Seeing Jordan celebrating NBA championships with a cigar in hand also had an influence.
Reed is no stranger to the victory cigar. He led the University of Miami to a National Championship and would win the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. He started smoking in college, where he and roommate Reggie Wayne, another future NFL star, took the edge off with a cheap smoke. Reed would settle with a cigar and review game film during his final year as a Hurricane. Here’s a look at the man, whom many consider the best safety of all time, a man as dedicated to football as he is to cigars.
Ed Reed’s Beginnings
Not everyone from such humble beginnings ends up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Growing up near New Orleans, Reed was the second of five boys. When he saw he had a chance at the NFL, he buckled down, avoided trouble, and dedicated himself to football. While Lewis and his future NFL teammates on the Ravens were winning the Super Bowl, Reed was a two-time consensus All-American at “The U” and helped the Miami Hurricanes win the National Championship in 2001.
Ed Reed and the NFL
The Ravens drafted Reed in the first round in 2002. He quickly became a starter and began building a Hall of Fame career. Reed played eleven seasons with the Ravens collecting 64 interceptions; seven returned for touchdowns. Reed forced 11 fumbles and returned punts, but he still holds the record for the longest interception returns for a touchdown- 107 yards.
Reed was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the year in 2004, recording 62 tackles and nine interceptions. However, playing in the AFC against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, getting to a Super Bowl proved difficult. After several great playoff runs, Reed and the Ravens finally achieved the ultimate goal, winning Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.
The game, sometimes called the “Har-bowl” (because it pitted coaching brothers Jim and John Harbaugh against each other), is also known as the “Blackout Bowl.” The Ravens held a healthy lead before a partial blackout delayed play for over half an hour. The 49ers mounted a comeback, led by Colin Kaepernick, but the Ravens held on to win. Reed had five tackles and an interception and finally had the chance to hoist the Lombardi trophy.
Reed retired in 2015 and became a Pro Football Hall of Famer in 2019, the first year he was eligible. Before taking the stage at the ceremony, Reed can be seen with a large cigar perched between his lips.
Cigar Life and Life After Football
Although he was named to the NFL 100 Greatest list and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has come right out and said it, Reed shies from the suggestion that he is the greatest safety ever. He insists that football is a team game. That is why he has always appreciated the camaraderie of being a cigar smoker.
Reed has come a long way since smoking economy cigars during his college days. He has cultivated his tastes over the years favoring Plasencias, and Fuentes Opus X. Long intrigued by the process of cigar-making, Reed started exploring the cigar world when planning life after football. He has visited several factories to get an in-depth look -from field to factory- at the cigar-making process. The fascination inspired him to start his line of cigars. The “ER” cigar line has been in the works for some time and will soon hit the market.
Reed is not just a football player. He has given back to the community since the early days of his playing career. He started the Ed Reed Foundation over 20 years ago to provide guidance to underprivileged youth in Baltimore and his hometown New Orleans.
Football is still a massive part of his life. Reed coached defensive backs for the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and served as the University of Miami’s football chief of staff from 2020-22. He made headlines when he was hired to coach Bethune-Cookman University’s football team. When the HBCU did not ratify his contract, Reed criticized the conditions at the school. He later apologized.
If Reed is anything, he is passionate about social justice, football, and cigars.
Photo credit: Cigar Life Guy