/High school coaching legend Ed Reed stood tall on the Notre Dame Box

High school coaching legend Ed Reed stood tall on the Notre Dame Box

It went on for a while. Sometimes, Hattiesburg players would tackle Natchez players who didn’t possess the football. Finally, I heard a crash from the other side and the shouted epithet: “#*#%#%, “Have you got the %*^&)E$ed football?” Although I have forgotten the score, I will always remember who was behind that offense. He was Ed Reed and he was a Mississippi coach legend. He was 89 years old when he died in Biloxi on Sunday morning. He will be buried in Natchez on Thursday. Reed won 276 games and lost only 86 while a high school football coach. His story would make a great chapter in any history book on Mississippi high school football. These are his two greatest achievements. He was the last to win the championship in the historic, old Big Eight Conference. He was the first coach to win an overall state championship in the largest division of Mississippi schools, Class AA. For the 1980 Big Eight title, Reed’s South Natchez team defeated Greenville 37-7. South Natchez defeated Starkville 21-6 in 1981 to complete a 14-0 season, and win the state title. Reed also won both before and after integration. He won in both small and large schools. He won the championships in Mississippi and won the Alabama title. He was a winner. One constant was that he never strayed from the Notre Dame Box. This offense had been in mothballs for decades before he enjoyed such success with it. The Notre Dame Box is a variation on the original single wing. It dates back to football’s earliest days. Knute Rockne was the first to make it popular after learning it from Jesse Harper. Jesse had learned it from Amos Alonzo Stagg who in 1905 invented it after he had invented the huddle in 1896. Curly Lambeau was the Box’s owner with the Green Bay Packers. Reed continued to run it long after all the legends had passed. It was still there. It was run again. He drove Hattiesburg coaches crazy by doing so. The Box is, or was, an offense that relies on precision and deceit. Reed’s teams practiced it, and continued to practice it until it was almost an art form. Reed’s opponents only had a few days to prepare for the knowledge Reed’s players had. The results were predictable in retrospect. You can see the Box in action today by watching Navy, Air Force, and Army play. They are not as fast or as large as the other teams they play. Their offensive system is often the greatest equalizer. Don Hinton, director of Mississippi High School Activities Association, was a young coach at Murrah High School in Jackson when Reed ran the Box in Natchez. Hinton said, “It was a nightmare for me to prepare for.” We knew exactly what they would do, but it was still impossible to stop them. We couldn’t find the ball half the time.” Ed Reed was being honored in Natchez by former players when I last spoke to him two years ago. When I asked him what the secret was to his success, he replied softly, “Well, it was that I was blessed with some really great athletes.” He learned this offense as a Booneville high school student. If you were diligent about practicing it and paying attention to every detail, it worked. Reed did. He didn’t see any reason to change. Reed was a great coach. He had the ability to motivate players with great effort and hard work. I asked Reed two years ago: With all your success, how come no one runs the Notre Dame Box right now? Reed replied, “I don’t really know.” “If I were still coaching, I sure would.”_x000D