IOWA CITY, Ia. — At an age when many Americans are planning for retirement, the fire to coach football still burns inside 63-year-old Jim Reid. And it’s not a flicker, but a full-blown inferno.
When I asked Iowa’s second-year linebackers coach Wednesday what part of the job he loves the most, Reid’s answer was more than 400 heartfelt words long.
“And that’s a long answer to a very short question, and I apologize, and I’ll get off my soapbox,” Reid said. “Thank you, though, for asking that. Appreciate it.”
Reid’s answer spoke to a coaching career that’s in its fourth decade and has included college and NFL stops. But this is a guy who lives for the next practice, the next film session, the next game. Not the next trip to the bank.
“If you’re in coaching just to make a paycheck and have a job, you’re missing the point,” Reid said. “You are a teacher. And more than just technique, if you want you can teach a little bit about life. You can teach a little bit about being a gentleman. You can teach a little bit about being a competitor. You can teach a little bit about everything that it takes to be a success. Not that you are one, but that you’ve been able to observe. You follow me here?”
Reid’s refreshing take on life and football have helped rejuvenate an Iowa football program that recovered from an uncharacteristic 4-8 season to win eight games and go to a bowl game in 2013 for the 11th time in Kirk Ferentz’s 15 seasons as head coach.
“We start out every meeting with some mind of a champion saying,” Reid said. “Whether it’s two words, five words, seven words, that’s what you try to build, the mind of a champion, and not just in athletics, but in life as well. You want to be a good husband. You want to be a good father. OK, this is what you do. It’s the same qualities as being a good football player. Think about it. ”
The heart and soul of Iowa’s 2013 team was senior linebackers James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. On more than one occasion, Hitchens credited Reid with making a complex game crystal clear, from his reads to knowing formations and tendencies.
“Don’t be afraid to make a mistake,” Reid said. “Start the play with instinct. If your instinct is wrong, we’ll correct it. Now that sounds almost like opposites, but hey, you play with what you think that you see, and we’ll clean it up after that.”
Reid is a glass half-full guy. He lives that way. And coaches that way.
“What a lot of people miss is destructive criticism leads you to destruction,” Reid said. “It’s not hard. Constructive criticism, players understand and will get better. I mean, if you’re a player, you just want to be told what to do and what you want to be done in a positive, high-energy way because that’s how the game is played.”
Earlier in his career, Reid was a linebacker coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2008 and 2009.
“A guy, 5 feet 7 inches, from Medford, Mass., going down and coaching some of these guys,” Reid said. “I was humbled every day. It was just a privilege to be with these guys and also to yell at them every once in a while. Because on the street they’d hit you upside the head and knock you down.”
But Reid missed recruiting, and watching the growth of players during their careers. He still keeps in touch with many of them through Facebook and Twitter.
Reid became available when Virginia cut him loose as associate head coach and defensive coordinator after the 2012 season, a dismissal that left some in Charlottesville scratching their heads because the Cavaliers had made significant improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
That and the fact that Reid’s infectious personality seems to motivate and resonate with his players.
“Coach Reid brings energy each day to practice,” said Quinton Alston, expected to be one of Iowa’s starting linebackers in 2014.
Ferentz had no qualms about hiring Reid, once his Yankee Conference rival. Reid was 2-0 against Ferentz’s Maine teams when he was the head coach at Massachusetts.
Once he arrived on campus, Reid spent a lot of time with Norm Parker, who retired as Iowa’s defensive coordinator in 2011 and passed away in January. Parker became his mentor in the ways of Iowa football.
“First of all, let me say this, I really miss Norm Parker,” Reid said Wednesday. “He’s one of the greatest football coaches of all time in our profession.”
Now Reid is a mentor to LeVar Woods, who returned to his alma mater to coach after a seven-year NFL career. Woods, in his seventh season on Ferentz’s staff, works with the outside linebackers. Reid has the inside linebackers. It’s a relationship that clicks.
“Its’ really hard to put into words,” Alston said. “You just have to see it. But it’s a good partnership that works out for us.”
Woods uses words like awesome and unbelievable to describe Reid. Woods was well-versed in the successful defensive philosophies Parker loved. Reid is a fresh approach with the same goal, to win football games.
Reid has been coaching longer than Woods, 36, has been alive.
“It’s like father-son, because I’m that old,” Reid said. “Dawned on me the other day that, gosh, I’m just not going to be able to do this another 42 years, because that would make me, as I was told by one of my players, 105. But let’s not say never, because you never know.”
You never know, as long as the fire still burns.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football