Les Bowen: Eagles, NFL rally around the Reid family

Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie arrives for the service for Garrett Reid. MICHAEL BRYANT/Staff Photographer
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie arrives for the service for Garrett Reid. MICHAEL BRYANT/Staff Photographer
Posted: August 09, 2012

TEARS GLISTENED behind the sunglasses as Jeffrey Lurie talked about his football coach, Andy Reid, and about Andy's eldest son, Garrett, minutes after a crowd estimated at 900 mourners said goodbye to Garrett Reid Tuesday at the Broomall Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

"The team loves this man, Andy. It's hard to explain, but as a coach and as a human, he's fully evolved," Eagles chairman Lurie said, standing in the church driveway. "He's one of these people who shares his life and his love and his passion for the football team and the extended family. It's so appreciated by everybody he works with. It's not something you can see in press conferences. It's not something you can see after a loss or after a win. It's just how he is as a person. He's just incredibly respected … around the National Football League, as you saw today by who came, but by his team and [the organization]."

Lurie said that as far as the Eagles are concerned, the coach can stay away from football as long as he wants, "but that's not what he wants, he wants to get right back in there." Lurie said "all indications are" that Reid will be on the sideline Thursday night when the Eagles open their preseason at home against the Steelers.

If the tragedy that has played out since that 911 call at 7:20 Sunday morning from a Lehigh dorm has taught us anything, it is how deep the bond is between the Eagles' organization and Andy Reid . General manager Howie Roseman broke down sobbing after announcing the news of Garrett Reid's death. Team president Don Smolenski, on vacation in Alaska, flew all night to be back for the funeral. Lurie spoke yesterday as if he were discussing his own family.

Of course, the danger in covering this story is in making it too much about Andy, providing one last horrible ironic twist to the life and death of a 29-year-old man who struggled in the shadow of his father's fame and wealth.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh, a former Eagles assistant, said the service gave "a sense of [Garrett's] spirit for life ... the one thing I took [from the service] more than anything was that Garrrett was a friend of everybody. The kids at school that were kind of struggling a little bit, he was their friend. The guys that were picked last for the basketball team, he was their friend. He would take everybody under his wing. That's a trait I think he gets from Andy."

Crosby Reid, one of Garrett's two sisters, sang a hymn Garrett loved, "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." Garrett's uncle Bart Winters, husband of Tammy Reid's sister, Cindy Winters, delivered the eulogy to a packed chapel. A church spokeswoman said the church was not the one the Reids usually attend, but was chosen because it is the biggest LDS facility in the area. She said some mourners watched the service on closed-circuit TV from the adjacent gym and from other rooms in the church.

Harbaugh said Crosby Reid's rendition of the hymn "was beautiful."

Garrett Reid was working with the Eagles as a strength and conditioning assistant, preparing to return to college in the fall. He famously spent much of 2007-2009 incarcerated over drug problems. No cause of death has been released, but the family issued a statement Monday that alluded to Garrett losing "the battle that has been ongoing for the last eight years."

The photo on the cover of the funeral program seemed to have been taken at Garrett's brother Britt's California wedding last month. It showed a laughing, bearded giant, who looked very much like photos of his father from a few decades ago. He looked nothing like the blobby, pasty-faced figure photographed in those court appearances several years back.

"It was a combination of tremendous grief and tremendous love, and of course, they go hand in hand," Lurie said when asked about the service. "A lot of tears, and a lot of joy, in terms of remembering Garrett."

Lurie said the service conveyed "the sense of Garrett [as] just a joyous person, upbeat, brought everybody up ... loyal to his friends. Somebody who enjoyed life, with challenges, but somebody who always was there for his friends."

Two of those friends, Jacob Joyce and Wendell Holland, went to Harriton High with Garrett. Holland was a football teammate of the 6-5 center.

"Absolutely," Holland said, when asked if he was surprised by Garrett's death. "We know Garrett's been through a lot, but we know he had a huge support system. To me, it looked like things were going in the right direction. I was really shocked to hear of his untimely death.

“He was a fierce competitor, and he was a motivational factor for our team … He'd always get us excited, and he'd fight out there."

Joyce said he spent a lot of time with Garrett on weekends in high school and never saw a hint of the problems that would envelop him later.

Among Tuesday's attendees were Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Saints interim coach Joe Vitt, whose squads were to practice against one another hours later. They flew in on the plane of Saints owner Tom Benson, who came to the funeral, along with Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, a former Reid assistant. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Browns president Mike Holmgren also mourned the Reid family's loss.

Holmgren, the head coach in Green Bay when the Packers won the Super Bowl with Reid as an assistant, has known Andy and Tammy since shortly after they married, and he knew Garrett almost his entire life. Andy was a graduate assistant after his playing career ended at BYU, and Holmgren was quarterbacks coach.

"[Garrett] was a little rambunctious guy when I first met him," Holmgren said. "He had a great personality. That family, the kids, they were pretty active, now. I can remember going over to dinner when I was recruiting [for BYU in the mid-'80s], Andy was at San Francisco State, we'd sit around the table, the blessing was over, the food, it was like Star Wars, you know? But it was a lot of fun."

Holmgren was asked how Andy was holding up. Holmgren, 10 years older than Reid, called him "the son I never had."

"Andy prides himself on being a rock. All of us in this business have to be like that a little bit. But when it comes to something as personal as this, his humanness and who he is comes out, and that's OK, that's a good thing," Holmgren said.

Contact Les Bowen at bowenl@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @LesBowen. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.eagletarian.com.

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