The linebackers coach used a reporter's question about when he knew there was something special about this team with his players.
With Iowa football players scattered around the country on winter break, linebackers coach Jim Reid had to tell them individually by phone that he was leaving to become Boston College’s defensive coordinator.
In true form, the 65-year-old Massachusetts native -- with a thick Boston accent to prove it -- opened with a punch line.
“At first he joked about it,” outgoing senior Cole Fisher said. “He said he was going home to die.”
Then, Reid went on to tell Fisher about how special he was to him -- and how difficult it was to leave behind all of the young Hawkeye linebackers.
That’s Reid. Laughs one minute. Serious the next. Or vice versa.
Safe to say, even though Reid was on Kirk Ferentz’s staff for only three years, he left a unique, memorable footprint. He won’t easily be replaced. And he certainly won’t be forgotten.
Fisher remembered meetings where the diminutive Reid would be screaming so loud that players were afraid they were in serious trouble.
“The next thing you know … he’ll remember one of his stories of his many years,” Fisher said. “And we’re all laughing about something that happened 20 years ago.”
Players joked that Reid’s Friday game-prep packets were so comprehensive compared to other positions at Iowa that he killed three trees per linebacker.
Reid never wasted a minute. The coach of four decades barely slept during the season, up until 2-3 a.m. many nights preparing for the next day’s practice and meetings, then up again at 5 for a morning workout.
During one meeting, young linebacker Ben Niemann spilled his sports drink. Not wanting to stop the meeting to chase a towel, Reid stripped off his shirt and threw it to Neimann.
“Clean it up with that!” Reid instructed, Fisher recalled.
Puzzled, Niemann followed his coach’s orders. What happened next was more stunning.
Reid put the soaked shirt back on and kept teaching.
He was not only a football coach, he was a molder of men. He held his players accountable, especially in the classroom. If you messed up academically, you’d be summoned to the Iowa Football Performance Center on a Friday or Saturday night -- even in-season. The punishment wasn’t a run-till-you-puke workout. No, Reid would put you in a room until your homework was finished.
It was that kind of tough-love, big-picture coaching that endeared Hawkeye players to Reid. He gave his life to them; they gave back.
“He was always a guy to make time for you,” Fisher said.
Fisher had a unique perspective. In his first four years, the Omaha, Neb., recruit missed a lot of meetings because of heavy class demands as a civil engineering major. Fisher barely played. Reid easily could have given up on Fisher. Instead, he would meet with Fisher individually late at night to help him catch up.
As a fifth-year senior, Fisher became Iowa’s starting weak-side linebacker for every game in a historic 12-2 season. There's not a much better Reid story than that.