When you talk about iconic plays during the Les Miles era, it's hard to find one that tops this:
The magnitude of the moment coupled with the excellence of the play is such that only Billy Cannon's miraculous punt return on Halloween could reign above it. I can't tell you how many times I've watched that play and just stammered, "Now how in the.... what the... he did what? HUH? No, okay. Oh, wow. Yep, that happened."
While this may be the crowning moment of the career of Eric Reid, it's neither the beginning nor the ending. As we crawl through the best players of Miles era, it's not uncommon to highly rank players who finished on a high note: Mettenberger, Minter, Beckham Jr. That's just three that have already cracked the list.
Eric Reid's career took a different arc, at least in our memories. He's a player that emerged as a true freshman, possibly hit a crescendo vs. Alabama in 2011 and then played a Junior Season in 2012 that most consider wildly disappointing.
Reid played just three seasons at LSU. He's not a player than dots the LSU records books in any major defensive category, and probably wouldn't have been had he played his Senior season in Baton Rouge. Yet, here he sits as the 8th best player in the Miles era, as decided by us writers.
Why'd Reid rank 8th? Well I think the versatility of his skill set and the fact that he played a major role in arguably the greatest defense in LSU history play a major factor in that. Reid isn't a guy that stands out in any specific area, but he did a little bit of everything well. He finished his career with 199 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 6 INTs, and 17 passes defended. He was a guy capable of delivering a big blow and stalling the run game, but also one that could drop into coverage and make impressive interceptions. It's pretty rare that you can find a player that can tackle Trent Richardson man-up in the open field, then turn around and cover Jarius Wright successfully. But Eric Reid was that player.
Our final taste of Reid was a Junior season that statistically looked like this:
91 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INTs, 9 Passes Defended
Statistically, it's easily the best of his career. Yet, it's common to call this season a disappointment. Such is the realm of expectations at DBU. Of Reid's 2012, I remember a lot of overcompensating. He seemed hell bent on making every play, sometimes to the detriment of his defense. Perhaps the loss of Brandon Taylor pigeon-holed him into a role that didn't benefit his skill set. Next to Taylor he could roam and invent and be creative, with little repercussion. But apart from him? Well, his gambling in coverage and big-hit mentality often turned up bust. Yet, the fact that he was drafted highly and excelled during his rookie season are indicators that we likely judged his final campaign too harshly.
Still, it's hard to forget that singular play in 2011. That is the stuff of legend building. The sheer volume of jaw-dropping plays made by Tyrann Mathieu put him unto a plane himself, but I'm not sure any single play he made was better than Reid's interception on 11.05.11. It was both game and season changing. It's the type of play that is made all the sweeter because Alabama fans continue to bicker about it's legitimacy, though it's utterly obvious to any non-biased observer.
Reid capped his career as an All-American and a two time All-SEC player and went on to be a first-round pick and Pro Bowler as a rookie for the San Francisco 49ers. He had a knack for delivering the huge blow and finding the ball in the air. He was intelligent, aggressive and versatile. He's everything you ask for in a modern safety.
Other Entries to the Best Players of the Miles Era Series:
#9 Zach Mettenberger
#10 LaRon Landry
#11 Jacob Hester
#12 Kevin Minter
#13 Sam Montgomery
#14 Brandon Taylor
#15 Odell Beckham Jr.