During the three years that safety Tyrann Mathieu was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, there was never any question that he was the leader of the team’s defensive secondary — if not the entire defensive unit.
Kansas City Chiefs safety Justin Reid @JustinqReid at Fleming Middle School gym renovation @HoustonISD unveiling has set big goals for @Chiefs defense and is thrilled to have joined @PatrickMahomes via free agency, expects to provide leadership, big plays @WME_Sports @PFN365 pic.twitter.com/8U41eZCN6a— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) June 17, 2022
“Absolutely. I think that’s the reason they brought me there: to command the back end,” Reid recently told Houston reporters (including Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson). “Not just be a leader by speaking, but to be a leader by example and to help those young guys on the roster develop in the players they’re capable of being.”
Reid is intimately familiar with the role Mathieu played for the Chiefs, having started a dozen games alongside him during his 2018 rookie season with the Texans.
“Tyrann, I’ll never forget his thing was a mentality and attitude, the work ethic and just playing with a savviness,” he said. “He called it ‘championship swagger’ — fall forward. His pregame speeches were second to none. He was a big leader in the room; he’s someone that everybody gravitated to. So when he did leave Houston, I kind of took over a little bit of that role by the precedent that he set.”
During his four years in Houston, Reid also chose to emulate Mathieu with charitable works off the field, becoming a Walter Payton Man of the Year finalist through his J Reid InDeed foundation. The most recent of these projects was a $25,000 upgrade to Houston’s Fleming Middle School, which he accomplished in partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods.
“I love Houston,” said Reid. “I’m so excited to start my career here and make so many relationships and friendships. It felt like home. The city took me in with open arms.”
And it’s not unreasonable to expect that with the Chiefs, he will soon feel the love from his new Midwestern home — where he said he is excited about the opportunities he’ll have under defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
“His defense is very symmetric,” he noted, “with guys spinning all over the place. His defense is very dynamic — and I love that. He has so many different wrinkles: playing a two-high (safety), switching it up and playing a zone, blitzing on occasion. I would love to highlight blitzing a little bit more and add that to my game.
“He’s had a long history of success and I’m excited to be a part of that. I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunities, especially if we’re up in games early as Patrick Mahomes tends to do. There will be some opportunities on the back end to make a lot of electric plays.”
Reid said that so far, he’s liking what he’s seen on the practice field.
“Yeah, we’re looking sharp,” he said. “When you have talented players on the field like quarterback Patrick Mahomes, NFL Hall of Famers like Travis Kelce, and the amount of depth and experience on the roster and a great coaching staff, all of that plays a role in building those championships. I get to see it firsthand — and add to it as well — and all of that is very exciting.”
All of that will help to erase the sting of a play Reid would like to get back: being tackled by Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen on a fake punt during the Texans’ 51-31 loss to the Chiefs in 2019’s Divisional playoff game. Reid said that it was Mahomes who made the difference in that loss.
“I tell you what,” he observed, “it will be a whole lot more fun playing with him than against him. Playing against him in practice will definitely help. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback. The outcomes are endless.”
But for Reid, the most important thing will be to perform like the player he is.
“I’m going to play to my strengths,” he said. “I’m going to play to who I am. I’m going to play to the defense — and Spags has some creative things we’re going to do going forward.
“That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to play great defense; we’re going to play great ball.”