Pinstripe Bowl: Why Boston College's Jim Reid feels happy but 'sick' about facing Iowa

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

NEW YORK — When the news arrived four Sundays ago, Boston College defensive coordinator Jim Reid couldn’t believe it.

“I’m just going to really honest with you,” he said. “I never thought this would ever happen. I mean, what are the chances?”

Wednesday, it will happen: Reid, 67, will go up against many of the players he once coached when the Eagles face Iowa in the Pinstripe Bowl (4:15 p.m. CT, ESPN) here at Yankee Stadium.

Iowa linebackers Aaron Mends, left, and Josey Jewell catch up with former Hawkeye linebackers coach Jim Reid in New York City on Monday, Dec. 25, 2017. Reid is now the defensive coordinator at Boston College.

Iowa’s three starting linebackers, all seniors, learned from and fought for Reid.

Then redshirting true freshmen, Josey Jewell and Bo Bower were two of Reid’s first assignments when he became Iowa’s linebackers coach in 2013.

Ben Niemann joined the group a year later and played as a true freshman.

That trio has a combined 119 starts.

Now they’ll all play their final games (running the start count to 122) against the man who once led them. Reid left after the 2015 season to take a job he couldn’t turn down, directing the defense of a Power Five school in his hometown of Boston.

Wednesday, they were reunited as friendly adversaries during a visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum.

“In one way, I was happy (about playing Iowa) because I’d be able to see them. In another way, I just felt sick,” Reid said, “that we would have to compete against guys that I just have great admiration for. I mean, I loved all those guys you just mentioned, and all the rest of them.”

Upon learning of the matchup, Reid told his BC players of the Hawkeyes: “They would be the best friends for the rest of your life if they were on your team.”

In this 2014 photo, Jim Reid oversees an Iowa football practice when he was linebackers coach.

The admiration goes both ways.

The endearing stories do, too.

Jewell cracked about the girth of Reid’s printed-out packets of notes: “He’d probably kill a couple of trees a day.”

Niemann remembers Reid as a passionate and always positive coach: “He’d do anything for his players. A really fun guy to play for.”

Former Hawkeye linebacker Cole Fisher once told of Reid yelling at the linebackers one minute then breaking off into a historical tangent the next: “And we’re all laughing about something that happened 20 years ago.”

Reid got a chance to tell some of his Iowa stories this week, relaying fond memories of his time working under Kirk Ferentz.

“Three of the best years of the 47 I’ve been in college football,” Reid said. “Great, great memories and great friends.”

He recalled racing down the hallways of the Iowa Football Performance Center one day because he was late for his position-group meeting. Upon his arrival to the linebackers room, he was met with a rewarding moment: Then-senior Travis Perry was running the meeting with a remote control in hand.

The Hawkeyes were already on Play 3 of the day’s film-study agenda.

“They talked the formation, they talked the backfield set, they talked the defense that was called, they talked the reads,” Reid said. “I was just so proud of them — that they could handle a meeting without me. Every coach, that’s everybody’s goal. It was just fun to listen to them.

Jim Reid is in his second year as Boston College's defensive coordinator. The Hawkeyes face their former linebackers coach in Wednesday's Pinstripe Bowl.

“I’ve always felt the best way for your players to play is if they understand the defense in their scheme well enough that they can coach each other.”

Iowa remains well-schooled now, with consensus all-American Jewell in the middle.

Reid said his Boston College players are coming around, too, after some early-season struggles.

The Eagles yielded 611 yards to Notre Dame and 625 to Louisville, but have found success in simplifying their approach. They’ve done less blitzing and played more fundamental, base defense.

Sound familiar?

“The guys just kind of took to that,” Reid said.

BC allowed an average of 12.0 points in its final five games while forcing 14 turnovers. It held Virginia and Florida State to less than 250 yards.

For the season, the Eagles are tied for eighth, nationally, with 18 interceptions — one shy of the Hawkeyes’ 19.

Is there an advantage for Reid to face a familiar Iowa offense?

Maybe not as much as you'd think.

"(Offensive coordinator) Brian Ferentz has unique tweaks to every play he runs. Sometimes the fullback is on the strong safety, sometimes he’s on the inside backer," Reid said. "What he’d used to do to us all the time is run outside zone and change the footwork of the tailback.

"This is going to be a hefty challenge for us."