The most vivid image - and probably the most important play - in LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory at Alabama last Saturday was Tigers safety Eric Reid’s interception.
Photographs and video of the play have been shown countless times since Reid closed on Crimson Tide tight end Michael Williams, leaped, and wrested the ball from Williams at the LSU 1-yard line, ending what would have been the most serious scoring threat of the game and helping tilt the momentum to the Tigers.
“It was phenomenal,” LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne said. “I remember seeing the ball and seeing the guy wide open and seeing Eric coming from out of nowhere and ending up with the ball. He went and fought for the ball. He was just determined.”
Williams wasn’t Reid’s man, but when Reid saw him running free down the middle of the field, he realized he’d better follow him.
“As a safety you’re taught not to get beat deep,” Reid said, “so instinctively I wanted to get behind that guy. I knew they were going to throw it deep so I just tried to get back and prevent the touchdown.”
Reid, a sophomore from Geismar, had a leading role in several other highlights. On the second play from scrimmage he helped set the tone for what became a bruising defensive battle by popping Bama running back Trent Richardson at the sideline, causing a fumble that went out of bounds.
“I got comfortable after that first play,” Reid said. “I made some good contact with him, so I guess you could say it put me in the zone, and I was able to keep making plays.”
Another big play came on the Tide’s next series after they had reached the Tigers 27. Reid zipped into the backfield and dropped former Dutchtown High teammate Eddie Lacy for a 6-yard loss. The drive ended with Bama missing a 50-yard field goal.
“As soon as they gave him the ball,” Reid said with a smile, “I was like, ?Oh, I’ve got to go get him.’”
In the second quarter, Reid grabbed the football after LSU defensive tackle Bennie Logan blocked another Tide field goal attempt and returned the ball 26 yards.
Reid played primarily on special teams at the start of his freshman season, but found himself in the secondary after Brandon Taylor suffered a season-ending broken foot against Alabama in the ninth game.
“He was a confident learner who understood scheme very well, and he made adjustments comfortably in his first year,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We’ve seen that he has the ability to play like he played Saturday.”
Reid’s father, Eric Sr., was a three-time All-America hurdler at LSU from 1984-87 and is a member of the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame.
“He taught me never to be complacent,” Reid said. “Just like I had a good game this week - not to be satisfied. You’ve always just got to do better and never be satisfied.”
Reid, 6-foot-2, 208, has gotten stronger since he arrived at LSU, and he said he has also come a long way mentally as he has gotten a clearer understanding of defensive coordinator John Chavis’ system.
“After you start to understand, it’s easier to put yourself in position to make a play,” Reid said, “You get to learn all the things you kind of skip over when you’re just trying to learn the plays. Now I’m starting to learn all the little details.”
Reid said he learned some details during the summer when he worked out with some former Tigers in the NFL who were locked out, including Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark, Giants defensive back Corey Webster, Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell, and Colts running back Joseph Addai.
“(Clark) got our footwork right and gave us a lot of drills we could do to help ourselves coming into this season,” Reid said. “They all worked out with us and gave us pep talks and told us all the things we needed to do to play the way they play.”
Reid said Clark and Webster gave him advice that’s crucial for any defensive back.
“They say it all the time,” Reid said, “that as a DB you haven’t played long enough if you haven’t got beat on a pass, so you’ve got to have that amnesia, and when something happens, you’ve got to bounce back and play the next play.”
Reid’s amnesia came in handy after he went against LaFell.
“He beat me pretty bad,” Reid said with a smile. “He kind of ribbed me about it a little bit, so it was funny.”
It was reminiscent of a time when Reid was 14 and his father raced him for about 50 yards in a restaurant parking lot.
“I thought I was going to kill him, but he beat me,” Reid said. “He felt like he put me in my place because I always talked to him about racing and he finally gave me my chance and he smoked me.”
Reid isn’t getting smoked this season, though he sometimes doesn’t get as much attention as Taylor, who’s a senior, or Claiborne, a junior who has a team-high four interceptions.
“We’ve got a lot of guys on this team,” Reid said, “so it doesn’t bother me at all to be overlooked.”
He’s not likely to be overlooked much after making the signature play in the much-ballyhooed No. 1-No. 2 matchup.
“It crossed my mind that it was number one versus number two,” Reid said. “So I guess you could say I picked a good game to break out.”