IOWA CITY – Before taking one look at tape, Iowa football players already had a reason to respect Pinstripe Bowl opponent Boston College.
The Eagles’ second-year defensive coordinator worked as the Hawkeyes’ linebackers coach from 2013-15 and Iowa players on both sides of the ball recall the energetic work of the now 67-year-old Reid, whose insistence on excellence helped shape their own expectations.
Senior linebacker Ben Niemann describes Reid as “a really passionate coach,’’ whose style helped bring out the best in his players.
“He came in with a passionate mindset every day, just pushing us to be great players,’’ Niemann said. “He’s just a guy who loves football and would do anything for his players, a real fun guy to play for.’’
Reid insisted on a high-octane approach on the practice field designed to prepare his players for high-energy critical situations on game day.
His work at Iowa began with coaching a pair of inside linebackers, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris.
Both of those 2013 seniors, along with outside linebacker Christian Kirksey, went on to play for NFL teams.
Two years later, Reid was coaching all three linebacker positions, working with a lineup that included Josey Jewell, Ben Niemann and Cole Fisher.
That collection of talent helped Iowa dominate against the run, ranking 15th nationally as it allowed 121 rushing yards per game during a 12-2 season which led the Hawkeyes to their first Rose Bowl berth since 1990.
Defensive tackle Nathan Bazata was starting as a sophomore on that 2015 team and he remembers how Reid worked to incorporate the linemen as he taught Hawkeye linebackers.
“He talked to us a lot in ’15 and ’14,’’ Bazata said. “I remember him talking to us about our fits and that type of stuff and where we were supposed to be on a certain call. He was huge in my development and growing as a player. I have a lot of respect for him.’’
That respect extends to the other side of the ball.
Offensive guard Sean Welsh suspects that the Hawkeyes will hear a distinctive voice from the opposing sideline in the Dec. 27 bowl game that kicks off at 4:15 p.m. at Yankee Stadium.
“He’s got that East Coast accent,’’ Welsh said. “It will be different going against him.’’
Bazata said Reid had a lot to do with the success of Iowa’s 2015 team and he suspects his presence could lead the Hawkeyes to change a few of their calls in the Pinstripe Bowl.
“He’s just a real good coach,’’ Bazata said.
Niemann said Reid’s willingness to help his players extended beyond the confines of the practice field.
“He’d come to help you out at 2 in the morning if you needed him to,’’ Niemann said. “He’d drop anything for his guys, a great coach, a guy you really like to play for.’’
Reid left Iowa following the Rose Bowl season, citing the chance to work again as a defensive coordinator and the desire to be closer to family in New England as his reason for leaving the Hawkeyes.
A native of Medford, Massachusetts, Reid got his first full-time job as a college assistant at Massachusetts in 1975. Before he arrived at Iowa, he worked three years as the defensive coordinator at Virginia following a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins.
His resume included working as a coordinator at Richmond and Boston College in the 1990s and as the head coach at Richmond from 1992-93 and VMI from 2006-07.
At first blush, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz believes the defense Reid runs now is probably more similar to what he ran at Virginia than what he was asked to implement at Iowa.
“The similarities will be that they are a hard-nosed, aggressive defensive football team,’’ Ferentz said. “That’s how Jim coaches football. They will be energetic. I’m sure of that. We’ll have our work cut out for us.’’
Boston College coach Steve Addazio said Reid can help his team understand what the Eagles are getting into against the Hawkeyes.
“He has an unbelievable amount of respect for their program. The good news is he was up close and personal with it. It’s something a lot of us brushed up against over the years,’’ Addazio said. “Coach Reid is a BC Eagle now and we’re going to rock and roll and get ready to play great football against them.’’