On Wednesday morning, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers announced three additions to the Bombers’ Hall of Fame, including defensive end Gavin Walls, Lynn Bishop (who enters the Hall of Fame in the builder’s category), and current Ottawa Redblacks running backs coach, Fred Reid.
“Oh man, it’s awesome,” Reid said. “It’s awesome news. This is a lifetime achievement, and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a great organization and I was able to play five years there until I got hurt, but it’s a great accomplishment on my end, and I’m very happy to be inducted into the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Hall of Fame.”
One of the highs from Reid’s career in Winnipeg came in a game against the BC Lions in 2009, where he set the Blue Bombers franchise record for most rushing yards in a single game with 260, a record that still stands today.
“That was definitely one of the biggest moments in my CFL career,” Reid said. “People don’t have games like that too often. I was very fortunate and blessed to have the ability to be able to get that done. I had some great teammates and coaches that year that were able to help me out and reach that goal. That was the highlight point of my career.”
During his time in Winnipeg, Reid did some great things with the ball in his hands. He rushed for 4,505 yards and 22 touchdowns, and although he remains the sixth-leading rusher for the Blue Bombers all time, there aren’t many moments he can think of that rival the 260-yard game. Instead, it was a series of moments that he looks back fondly on.
“I led the league in rushing there once, but overall, I just had some really good years in Winnipeg,” Reid said. “The fans were great, and the whole organization was great. We played in two Grey Cups, we didn’t win either of them, but I was able to be a part of that and bring a lot to the table.”
While Reid was playing football, he says he never really thought about coaching when he was done playing. But as the time to hang up the cleats came, it was something that he wanted to try. He got that chance with Middleton High School in Florida, starting as a running backs coach before becoming the team’s head coach.
“Coaching was actually something that I got into when I stopped playing,” Reid said. “I coached at the high school I played at, I helped out for a year, and I ended up loving it. I said ‘hey, this is something I want to do for a long period of time.’ That’s when I started taking it more seriously, started learning more, and I just felt good about helping youth get better and applying everything I learned over the years to help them out.”
“It has been great for me. It’s something I enjoy, it’s something I love and I just want to keep doing it. I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity to coach in the CFL now.”
Reid’s start with coaching in the CFL came with the Toronto Argonauts after Ryan Dinwiddie, a former teammate of his, became the Argonauts’ head coach in 2020. He made an impact on the team, as evident by the rushing statistics. The Argos as a team rushed the least amount of times across the league in 2021’s shortened season, but finished third in rushing yards across the league. As he traded the double blue for the red and black, those impacts have continued to start the season.
“It’s a blessing to be coached by somebody of that magnitude,” said Devonte Williams, the Redblacks’ running back.
“Coach Reid is really humble, he has his flashed where it comes back,” Williams said when asked if Reid ever mentions his career achievements. “I’ve watched the film on him, and he did his thing for sure.”
It’s often said that those who can’t teach, and those who can, do. But for Reid, he’s one of the few that are very good at both. He credits both some of the people who have helped him along the way, and some of his own traits that he says have translated nicely into coaching.
“The ability to play was there [for me],” Reid said. “But it was about wanting to help and being a people person. That’s me, that’s one of my characteristics. I like to be involved, help people out, help people succeed, and just help people get better. In coaching, I can do all of that and bring the best out of people.”
“I want to help young men grow, not just on the football field, but off of it, as well. That’s what it’s all about.”
Reid is surrounded by people in Ottawa who he had previous relationships with, whether that be Brendan Taman who offered him a contract in Winnipeg, or Paul LaPolice who was one of his coaches with the Bombers. That relationship with LaPolice, in particular, has flourished since the two became co-workers.
“The relationship is awesome,” Reid said. “Of course, it’s a little different when you are a player, but being able to play for him was a great opportunity, but I never thought in a million years I would have the opportunity to be coaching for him. It has been great so far. I’ve been learning a lot from coach LaPolice, he’s a great offensive-minded coach, and just a great leader overall. I’m very fortunate to be here learning under him.”
With all of his experience, both playing and coaching, Reid knows what it takes to get his running back performing at their peak.
“I just tell these guys to go out there and have fun while doing your best,” Reid said. “Do your best every time you touch the ball, and even when you’re not touching the ball, give your best effort. Help out, and contribute in every aspect. These guys have been great since day one of camp, and they have been doing everything that I ask of them. They leave it out on the field every time, and that’s something I preached from day one.”
Despite all of the success both playing and coaching, Reid’s story isn’t one that had previously been passed down, at least not always. Williams hadn’t heard about him while he was a running back in Winnipeg, and wouldn’t until he got to Ottawa, but now, perhaps the Hall of Famer’s name will become more commonplace in the confines of IG Field in Winnipeg.
“Not until I got here,” Williams said. “I kinda learned his story as I have gotten to know coach Reid in general. He taught me all the ins and outs, and he told me to just play my game. A lot of rookies in the CFL would feel some kind of pressure, but he told me that when the plays come, just make them to the best of your abilities and move on to the next one, good, bad, or otherwise.”
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