NEW ORLEANS -- Playing in the Super Bowl carries special meaning for Jacoby Jones and Ed Reed. Not only is it their first trip, but they’re natives and it will be the first one here since 2002.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city in 2005, killing almost 2,000 people and causing an estimated $81 billion in damage when the levees broke.
“It hit the day before my game and my mom was coming up to see me play, so all they packed was a weekend’s worth of clothes and everything else was gone,” Jones said. “I was still in college. We actually lived across the river in a little, small house. I could lay down and I was longer than the room.”
New Orleans has come a long way. So have Jones and Reed, though they took different paths to get here with the Ravens.
“I can’t explain it. This is awesome,” said Reed, a future Hall of Fame safety, in his 11th season. “To come home, to be in Louisiana, in front of the home team, the home crowd, playing for the Super Bowl…I can’t really explain it. I’m really speechless. For everything that I've been through to get to this point, everything we've been through as a team to get to this point, it’s just awesome. I’m just trying to enjoy it and not hold everything in, just enjoy the moment and soak this up.”
Reed was a highly coveted recruit out of Destrehan, La. He was an all-state player and was voted defensive MVP of his district. He attended the University of Miami where he won a national championship in 2001.
Reed has attended a Super Bowl in the city before. He just wasn't playing. He wasn't even in the NFL.
“I remember being here in ’97 for Media Day when the Patriots and Green Bay played,” he said. “I had won a Punt, Pass & Kick (competition).”
Jones played football at Abramson High in the city, but he went to Southeastern Louisiana and then Lane College, a Division II school, on a track scholarship. Then he took off in football. Jones’ mother, Emily, cooked for the team when they arrived Monday but he has tried to keep his emotions level.
“It’s good to play at home in a Super Bowl but you've got to look at it like a regular-season game,” Jones said. “You've got to approach it like that.”
While Reed has spent his entire in career in Baltimore, this is Jones’ first season after five years with the Houston Texans. He was released after last season, when he was haunted by dropped passes and a crucial fumble on a return in a playoff game against the Ravens.
Jones was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time as a returner. He has 3 TDs after taking over duties in Week 6. He remembers when Devin Hester took back a kickoff 92 yards for a score on the first play in Super Bowl XLI for the Chicago Bears.
“Hundreds of times,” Jones said when asked if he thinks about a moment like that one. “On returns that go for a touchdown, they happen when you least expect it. In games like this we just want to work for good drive starts and field position. So if one pops open, that’s a blessing.”
Reed feels a special connection with the game being in the Superdome.
“I just want to do this for the city. I’m sure there’s some guy from Louisiana on San Francisco’s team that wants to do the same thing,” he said. “It’s just special.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh lauded New Orleans’ perseverance in bouncing back to host a Super Bowl. A victory will make his recollections grow fonder.
“To me, that’s what America is about. That’s the human spirit, everybody coming together and rebuilding and making it a better place,” he said. “The same thing happened up in the northeast in the New York/New Jersey area (last year). That’s what we’re all about.”