The 2001 college football season is a special one for both Ed Reed and Frank Gore for two reasons. For one, that season was the only season that the two players were teammates at the University of Miami. For two, it was the last time that Reed and Gore were able to proclaim themselves as champions. With Reed a senior for the Hurricanes, the lead anchor on a terrifying defensive unit, and Gore a backup freshman running back to Clinton Portis, it seemed like each was the representation of arguably the defining college football program of our generation.
Miami doesn’t rebuild, Miami just reloads.
Now, with both players on the cusp of finally reclaiming championship glory that has been over a decade in waiting, it’s intriguing that each player will line up in the other’s crosshairs. Yes, I know what you’re thinking … but what about Ray Lewis? With all due respect to Ray, this ain’t about him right now. He’s got his ring, and now that he’s back to the promised land, his job is to lead the way in a fashion that only Ray can. However, for Reed and Gore, I can definitively say that these are guys who I truly want to see get a ring more than anybody else on the field*.
This is the cherry on top that Frank Gore needs to secure his legacy, as a championship would forever cement Gore’s place among the all-time great tailbacks of this generation. Already sitting 34th on the all-time rushing list, another season just over 1,000 yards will put Gore over 10,000 for his career. This coming from a man who’s had surgery on both knees since his playing days began in high school (along with his well-known ACL tear while at spring practice at Miami, which began the career of Willis McGahee) and rarely been on a winner while being a member San Francisco 49ers.
“He’s the best running back I’ve ever played against.” — Ed Reed speaking about Frank Gore.
This is the cherry on top that Ed Reed needs to secure his legacy as well, for Reed has always seemed to be your favorite football player’s favorite football player. Now at age 34, there’s nothing left for Reed to accomplish but this. It’s the one thing that could make Reed’s résumé flawless, in my opinion. As a people, we fans have this insane desire to determine greatness by titles, and with many of our favorite superstars, not having a title is what ends up defining a player’s legacy more than anything he actually achieved on the football field. That’s what’s on the line for Ed Reed, even if he has the respect of virtually anyone and everyone that’s witnessed the man put on a helmet.
I can’t predict the future, but I am almost assured of the fact that there will be some sort of embrace by the Miami brethren post-game. One person will be the victor, and the other still ringless. Maybe Reverend Ray will stop by and drop a few words that are meant to uplift, but they may fall of deaf ears. This isn’t a vision where everyone goes home happy, because that surely won’t happen. Yet, I just hope the embrace between the two is simply a reminder that the other is truly one of the greatest to play the game, that they appreciate that they left it all on the line, and that they’ll always have the other’s respect. Ring or no ring.
*The only other person that matters in getting a ring is Randy Moss, as he is the second greatest wide receiver that ever lived, and he is the first receiver I’d ever want to have on my team. Jerry Rice, be mad and dance with the stars in angst all night if you want to.