Jets defensive back D.J. Reed starred in the team’s best play on Sunday, when he intercepted Raven’s quarterback Lamar Jackson on a diving play inside Baltimore territory — and quickly dedicated his effort to his father, Dennis, who had passed away earlier in the week.
“I’m paying tribute to my dad this year, for sure,” Reed said. “That’s what I told myself: this season is for my dad.”
The elder Reed was taken off life support, just days before the Jets opened the season, after a nearly-two-decade battle with multiple sclerosis at the age of 61. Reed only found out minutes before the game.
“The national anthem was playing and I just was crying and stuff,” Reed said. “Yeah, it was emotional, man.”
When he caught the interception, and gave the Jets one of their few bright spots in the otherwise lackluster contest, Reed said he was overcome with emotion that was far more important than the football game.
“I honestly forgot about the score,” Reed said. “I don’t want to say I didn’t care, because I care about winning, but it was deeper than football when I got the interception. I wanted to pay tribute to my dad.”
— New York Jets (@nyjets) September 11, 2022
Reed, 25, joined the Jets in the offseason on a three-year deal worth $33 million, and figures to be an integral part of their secondary going forward.
The California native has also become a steady, respected presence in the locker room, and earned praise for shouldering the burden of his father’s loss from his head coach, Robert Saleh.
“Heart goes out to him and his family. D.J. is a pro’s pro, a man’s man,” said Saleh. “He went through a lot, and it was an emotional roller coaster this entire week for him.”
On top of losing his parent, Reed said he was most disappointed by the fact that the late Reed would never get to meet his expected daughter, as he is expecting a baby with his girlfriend.
“Definitely that was like one of the first things to do is go take my daughter to go see her grandfather. So for that not to happen, it was tough,” he said.
Reed told ESPN that he wants to focus on being the best player he can be, and his coping mechanism is football.
“It was nothing but love,” he said of his dad. “I don’t know if a funeral will be the best situation for me. For me, the best situation is to keep busy, and that’s what I’ve been doing, being around my teammates, being around the building. That’s what helps me.”