Andy Reid returns to Los Angeles roots for honor

Eagles head coach Andy Reid speaks about his years as a player for John Marshall. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Eagles head coach Andy Reid speaks about his years as a player for John Marshall. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 16, 2012

LOS ANGELES – Many didn’t know who he was at first.

“Who the hell is Andy Reid?” one boy said.

But when the John Marshall High football coach informed his players that the man in the Tommy Bahama black shirt, white cargo shorts and flip flops – like them a Barrister – helmed the Philadelphia Eagles, a large crowd engulfed the NFL coach.

Reid went back to high school Friday, first to check out the old stadium where he played as a teenager, and then later on to be inducted into the John Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame.

A four-sport letterman, Reid was being inducted mostly because of football, the sport he grew up loving the most, and the one that the NFL’s longest-tenured coach has made a career of.

"Football is the ultimate team sport," Reid said toward the end of his induction speech. "It’s an awesome sport. I’ve given my life to it and I hope to continue to give my life to it."

There was a small, informal ceremony 14 years ago in which Reid was first named to the Hall. But he had just gotten the Eagles job and could not attend. The school, however, wanted to do it right and a formal induction was held for Reid and 22 other former Marshall Barristers, including former Oakland Raider Michael Haynes.

"You can remember every play from your high school career," Reid said prior to the ceremony. "You move on and [the years after] start blending. But high school – you remember every stinking thing that happened. I think it’s because you grew up with the guys."

Several of Reid’s teammates and friends made the trek back to Marshall to celebrate with him. One of his closest friends and another member of Marshall’s Class of 1976, Lee Bruno, inducted him.

Bruno, a tight end and defensive end, co-captained the Barristers with Reid, who was a defensive tackle and offensive linemen. Reid was named Most Inspirational Player on his senior football team.

"His positive attitude and competitive spirit permeated our huddles and raised the team’s level of play," Bruno said as he inducted Reid. "He was like a large, earth-moving machine, a caterpillar tractor. No one could withstand that 6-4, 220-pound frame and those driving legs."

Reid arrived in California not long after the Eagles concluded minicamp Thursday. After settling into their vacation home in Dana Point, Reid and his wife, Tammy, drove up to his native city the following day. Reid’s older brother, Reggie, Bruno and another friend, Joe Riggio, went along for the ride.

Reid and his brother revisited their childhood home, paid respects to the kindly woman across the street that often watched over them and reminisced about their time growing up in the Los Feliz section of L.A.

Reid sold the two bedroom, adobe-style home in 1998 not long after his mother, Liz, died. His father, Walter, passed away several years earlier. The house sits on a hill and if you walk to the street where Reid tossed football after football you can see the tower of the high school.

The neighborhood is multi-cultural and was when Reid lived here. The high school reflected the demographics, as did the turbulent relations between the black and Hispanic communities. On the football field, however, the players put their differences aside, Reid said.

"We had a bunch of different people that came here and there was a big problem. That time in the city was volatile," Reid said. "It was kind of my job, I guess, to make sure all those guys played together."

Once a unifier of players, always a coach.

The team, appropriately enough, was led by a Japanese America. Hiroshi Tanaka, who could not attend last night’s ceremony because he was too ill, Reid said, spent part of his youth in an American-Japanese concentration camp in Utah during World War II, Reid said.

"He was just passionate about coaching," Reid said as he stood on the Marshall football field.

Its turf now and named in honor of Haynes. Reid said the field was mostly dirt when he played. He, Bruno and his friends used to hop the 15-foot high fence and play there even before they arrived as sophomores.

Reggie Reid, 10 years older, played running back for Marshall. Andy Reid said he idolized his brother, memorized the number of every player on his teams, but also knew they weren’t very good.

"I'm the little brother – He’s 18 and I’m eight, and I'd say, 'When I get there we’re going to dominate. We’re going to dominate,'" Reid said. “And you know what? We did alright."

The Barristers went 7-3 in Reid’s senior year and reached the quarterfinals in the city playoffs. Reid kicked three (!) game-winning field goals that season, the longest a 36-yarder. Reid went on to play at Glendale Junior College and then transferred to BYU. He coached right out of college and never looked back – well almost.

He was genuinely excited to return to Marshall, a majestic high school made of red brick. Much of the film "Grease" was shot there. Reid walked the halls, was mobbed by students in the quad – once some were told who he was – and ventured back onto the field.

He tossed a football with one student and posed for pictures, even with the young man who whipped out his “Cowboys” wallet. Reid gave that a thumbs down. One student did remember that a trophy was named in honor of the one-time graduate.

The trophy, housed into a case above the Michael Haynes, goes annually to the best lineman on the football team. Reid still sends letters and videos offering words of encouragement to the football team at Marshall. Many there said they weren’t surprised that he ended up an NFL coach.

"When his friends and classmates hear him during press conferences utter those few and well-chosen words, you can hear in them echo of his years at Marshall," Bruno said. "Control what you can control, and don’t stress out about the other stuff: 'I need to do a better job of putting my players in a better position to make plays.'

"In everything, it’s my responsibility. It’s my football team. It’s a reflection of me."

Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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