Growing up I wasn’t the best athlete but always loved playing sports. After a year of freshman football, I came to realize my path in sports would be through either a Sports Media position or working as a front-office type. I loved being the person picking teams in our pickup games. I loved the idea of constructing a roster, seeing the immediate positive or negative results, and then doing it all over again.
That’s kind of always been my relationship with the game and that’s why I’m just as big a fan of the general managers, head coaches, and coordinators as I am of the players.
After the 1996 season, when the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee, I followed the move like a football junkie. It was the beginning of the internet and I got to look in team chat rooms on AOL. I loved the Oilers/Titans room because of how they talked about late-round picks, who fans thought would and wouldn’t develop, and high picks like Steve McNair and Eddie George. Yes, I’m a lifelong, diehard Patriots fan but this is where I really became interested in Floyd Reese, the GM of the Titans.
A Reese fan from afar
I was in Philadelphia when the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs in 1999 and said, “Well, I know who I’m cheering for in the AFC.” The Freak of a safety, Jevon Kearse, the “Music City Miracle”, the win in Indy. Hell, I hosted a huge party for the Titans beatdown on the Jags in the AFC title game. The “Dyson just short” is one of the non-Boston close moments that hurt most. It really almost happened.
One of the greatest and coldest games I ever saw was the Titans at Patriots in the 2003 AFC Divisional game. I spent the morning in a Connecticut School of Broadcasting workshop, where everyone said “be prepared to freeze”. And boy did we freeze. It was a frigid battle but the Patriots won 17-14. I remember embracing a Titans Fan on the train back to Mansfield and telling him how much I enjoyed the Titans and that Floyd Reese was my favorite GM. He just said to me, “you know the game”.
Excitement is definitely the word that hit when Floyd joined the Patriots. That 59-0 game was all about Floyd for his boy, Bill. Bill stuck it to Jeff Fisher every way possible in that game with a little help from mother nature.
Thank you, Southwest Airlines
Back in December of 2011, I rushed to get to my plane in BWI back to Providence on Monday night after the Pats win in D.C. I was the last one on the plane and was fortunate enough to get a seat between two nice ladies. The lady by the window asked me to help pull her sleeve to remove her jacket and we struck up a conversation. She had some good questions about my fandom, how deep it went, and my knowledge of the NFL.
We got a short way into our hour flight when finally it was determined this awesome lady was Sally Reese, the wife of Floyd Reese. I gushed about how big of a fan I was and how he was my favorite GM in sports, how I followed him from the Titans to ESPN to the Patriots. I spit out draft picks, listened to her story of the Music City Miracle and the disappointment of being one yard away against the Rams. We exchanged info and it just topped off an epic trip.
We were soon in contact and even set me up with tickets for the Tebow vs the Patriots 2011 AFC Divisional game. We became Facebook friends, and Sally took great interest in my family, our life, and kept in touch. She loved when we got Jack as our dog after buying a new home and always asked about my beautiful daughters. Floyd would be retiring soon and in the last game of the 2012 regular season against Miami, Sally gave my family four club seats for his sendoff. My god, that meant so much to my family.
An afternoon with the Reese family
After Floyd retired, Sally and I kept in touch with everything. In 2018, I finally made my way to Nashville with Joe and Robert Forand. Saturday afternoon was like a dream. Sally popped by our hotel bar and asked, “would you like to come to our house to see the game room and meet Floyd?” I may have said yes by the time she finished with “house.”
Talk about a kid in a candy store, they’ll never know how much this meant to me. We got there and Floyd was watching Alabama Football. I was in awe, shaking even more than I normally do. I was on the couch with Floyd Reese and his dog. We were filled in with some incredible stories over his football journey, his relationships with Belichick and Saban but most importantly his journey with Sally and his family.
I almost forgot the memorabilia room that was just beyond compare. The elite of the elite, game balls, pictures, and helmets signed. The impact on the game is felt in this room. When we left, the trip was complete. Didn’t need to do anything more. The weekend had exceeded anything I could ever want. The last thing I told Floyd is I was enrolled at the Scouting Academy to enhance my football knowledge and how much of an impact he had on my choices. I could tell he was genuinely touched by my words.
It goes beyond the field
When Floyd stepped down from afternoon radio, I reached out to Sally and got the sad news. EVERYONE knows I’m a crier, tears were shed. Just through the Brady quote about Floyd and a message from Sally on Thursday, I felt awful. Got the news Saturday (yesterday) and definitely put up pictures from my trip as a tribute. I reached out to Sally and even got a tweet reply from his son Sean thanking me for kind words on Twitter.
In life, we all take different paths. My path is an interesting one but most importantly I did CSB and Scouting Academy to eventually end up where you are reading now, E2GSports.com. In a huge way, I must say Thank You to a hero, whom I was blessed enough to meet after a chance encounter on Southwest Airlines in 2011. Sally and family, always know you can reach out, and THANK YOU, FLOYD REESE.
Next stop Hall of Fame as a contributor, let’s step up your game voters.
Henrik Lundqvist has retired from the National Hockey League
Featured Image via Tennesee Titans