KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Justin Reid did not even try to conceal the excitement he felt on the inside as he strode into the media workroom in the Chiefs training complex on Thursday.
“Today is a great day,” said the newest member of the Chiefs. “I am so excited to be here in Kansas City. I can’t tell you all the emotions that have been going through my head whenever pin hit the paper to be a part of the organization, everything that we have going on in this city. It’s really exciting for me, it’s really exciting for my family.”
Reid hit all the highlights in his Zoom discussion with reporters, dropping in mentions of Arrowhead Stadium, championship swagger, 13 seconds and barbecue in just 17 minutes. While the three-year, $31.5 million contract with almost $20.5 million guaranteed helped seal the deal with the Chiefs, Reid also made it clear he coveted the right fit and “the culture and the opportunity” with a championship-caliber team before making his final decision Monday night.
“I slept on it one day, came back to it and in the back of my mind, the bottom of my heart, I was like, you know what: Kansas City is really the best situation and fit for me, so we’re going to pull the trigger on that one,” Reid said.
General manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid didn’t take part in Thursday’s press conference but both issued statements in making the safety’s addition to the team official. Andy Reid called him “a smart, talented and tough young player.”
“He’s got the right attitude, he’s ready to work, and we’re happy he’s a Chief,” Andy Reid said.
Veach thanked his staff along with Justin Reid’s agent Joel Segal for putting the deal together.
“We’re very excited to add an impact player like Justin to our roster,” Veach said. “He’s young and has proven himself with consistent play-making ability over the last four years. On top of that, he’s incredibly smart and physical. He’ll be a strong addition to coach (Steve) Spagnuolo’s defense.”
The 25-year-old safety arrives in Kansas City knowing he has big shoes to fill. Reid spent his rookie season playing alongside Tyrann Mathieu in 2018 with the Houston Texans. That’s where he says he learned from Mathieu how to play with an attitude, savvy and “championship swagger.”
“His pregame speeches were second to none,” Reid said of Mathieu. “He was a big leader in the room, he’s somebody that everybody gravitated to, so whenever he did leave Houston, I kind of took a little bit of that role by the precedent that he had set. So Tyrann is an unbelievable guy, he’s an unbelievable player, he’s a friend of mine.”
It was three years that Mathieu arrived in the city of fountains poised to lead the Chiefs toward a Super Bowl title, and now Reid’s addition in Kansas City coincides with Mathieu’s impending departure via free agency. Reid both understands the challenge ahead of him relishes the opportunity.
“I have always said this, that a copy is never worth as much as the original,” Reid said of Mathieu. “There will never, ever, ever be another Tyrann Mathieu to come through Kansas City. There just won’t. But I can bring the best Justin Reid possible to Kansas City, so that’s my mentality. I’m going to play to my strengths, I’m going to play to who I am, I’m going to play to the defense, and Spags has some creative things that we’re going to do going forward, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Reid already knows his new team well, having faced off three times against the Chiefs during the past three season, including the AFC Championship game during the 2019 season and the NFL season opener on Thursday night in 2020. He watched the way Mathieu patrolled the Kansas City defense, and he envisions himself carving out a similar but different role within Spagnuolo’s multiple-look defensive scheme.
“His defense is very dynamic, and I love that,” Reid said. “He has so many different wrinkles that’s put in it, playing a two-high, switching it up and playing a zone, blitzing on occasion. I think I said a little bit earlier, I would love to highlight blitzing a little bit more and add that to my game. All that really intrigued me.”
Reid won’t just being taking Mathieu’s role in the Kansas City secondary. The Chiefs also expect him to assume a leadership role but that’s something Reid knows is earned, not given.
“That’s why it’s a big point to me that I want to be able to shake every man’s hand in that locker room, look them in the eye and know them by their name,” Reid said. “Know what I mean? In order to receive respect, you first have to give respect. So I’m big on that. I want to earn they these guys’ respect, I want to prove to them that I can be the leader but that’s not something that’s just given to me, I have to earn that.”
Reid has also experienced game day at Arrowhead Stadium, watching the Chiefs rally from a 24-0 deficit against his Texans in the AFC Championship game and eight months later celebrating a Lombardi Trophy victory in the season opener.
“It was nuts,” Reid said. “It was nuts, it was a completely electric atmosphere. You can literally feel the hairs on my arm stand up every time we stepped out there. A lot of times it didn’t end the way that I wanted to playing for Houston but it was an electric atmosphere, I have so much fun playing in stadiums like that.”
Former Chiefs such as Eric Murray and Martinas Rankin also provided Reid with a scouting report on Kansas City as a home, as did offseason training partner Juan Thornhill – “We’re about the same size, a lot of similar characteristics. I think it’s going to be fun that we’re going to be interchangeable in the roles that we play.”
“All of them tell me how great of an experience they had here,” Reid said. “They said that this is a city they would raise their kids in. They said that the culture, the food and the barbecue is amazing – you won’t run short on places to go eat. They said when you drive up on game day, miles away you’ll start to smell the barbecue.”
And the next time Reid runs out of the tunnel at Arrowhead Stadium, he’ll be wearing red and gold with more than 70,000 fans cheering for him instead of against him.
“Now to be a part of that, I’m so excited to feed into the culture here, be a part of the fan base, help get those guys going and then have them give us a little bit of energy, too,” Reid said. “Because it really makes a tangible difference whenever the crowd is into the game and they get loud, and it actually energizes and boosts us as players on the field, so it makes a tremendous difference.
“I can’t wait to strap up and step out in front of them and play for them.”