Reed 'a man of character' — Tillman

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:29 PM ET

Kavis Reed was the No. 1 guy for the head coaching job with the Edmonton Eskimos, but he will always be remembered for the No. 13.

The new head coach has been reunited with general manager Eric Tillman. The two worked together with the expansion Ottawa Renegades as well as the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2009, when Reed co-ordinated the special-teams unit that committed the infamous 13th-man penalty that gave the Montreal Alouettes the second life they needed to score the game-winning field goal.

In the fallout, Reed accepted any and all responsibility for the play.

“He’s a man of character, experience, not only in this league but knowing this franchise and what it stands for,” Tillman said. “I know players have always responded well to him and I think when you’ve worked together like we have in two different situations … there is no substitute for an established relationship. You get to know people in the best of times, you get to know them in the worst of times.”

While the two are hoping the best of times are still ahead of them now that they have been rejoined, it isn’t difficult for either to pinpoint the low point, which happened two Grey Cups ago.

“That day was really a defining moment because it’s the pinnacle of what you’re trying to achieve,” Tillman said. “To get there and be in position to win the Grey Cup, be that close and have something that unfortunate happen …

“The young man that made the mistake was a veteran guy on our team. We haven’t named him, we’re not going to. He’s a guy that we have great respect for and we probably would not have gotten to the Grey Cup without his performances in the previous 18 weeks and in the playoffs.”

As the leader in charge of putting the personnel on the field for that play, Reed took it all on himself.

“I think that Kavis stepping forward and assuming responsibility for that play when it was in fact called correctly, when the mistake was made with somebody not coming off the field, when there wasn’t a counting up top … it was a combination of things that went wrong,” Tillman said. “But at the end of the day, he stepped up with more than just a phrase. He showed you win as a team, you lose as a team. Instead of pointing fingers he pointed one at himself, which said a lot about his character.”

As much as it hurt, Reed used the experience as a growth opportunity.

“I think working with special teams helped him tremendously in terms of being prepared to be a head coach,” Tillman said, pointing out the unit takes players with different skills and body types from both the offence and the defence.

Whatever coaching capacity he has held over the years, from defensive backs coach to defensive co-ordinator, Tillman said he has watched Reed grow toward becoming a head coach.

“Kavis’s first coaching opportunity was with us in Ottawa,” the general manager said. “I saw him as a young, energetic guy with a high IQ. The learning curve was rapid. Any time you’re young, you learn as you go. But we saw a lot of potential there.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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