Eric Reid flew around the field on Sunday, when the 49ers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: He’s been that way all season.
His bone-crushing hit on Keenan Cole made Dontae Johnson’s pick-six possible. But as Reid was stretching before the game, the thought that he could be playing in his last home game for the Niners crossed his mind.
It was a bittersweet moment for the 2013 first-round pick who has been a part of the highs and lows of the franchise like few else. The soon-to-be unrestricted free agent is one of the last links to the Jim Harbaugh era, and he’s been through it all.
Reid suffered three concussions over his first two seasons as a pro and there were whispers that he’d retire from football like former teammates Anthony Davis and Chris Borland.
He’s played for four coaches in five years, had his 2016 season cut short due to a torn biceps injury, and more importantly, has become one of the most outspoken members in the NFL when it comes to social activism.
It was Reid who first showed his support for Colin Kaepernick, kneeling next to the quarterback who has yet to receive another NFL job. He removed himself from the players’ coalition earlier this season after Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin communicated directly with the league without the coalition’s consent.
I don’t think anybody knew that when Reid was drafted out of Louisiana State University, he’d stand for much more than just a football player. Mostly because even he didn’t think that would be the case.
On and off the field, Reid has transformed into a leader of men — and it’s been especially apparent this season. He’s helped a young secondary grow up, he’s done any and everything defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has asked of him, including playing a role more typically fit for a linebacker.
Throughout his five-year career with the 49ers, Reid has found a way to deliver for the 49ers. And that means the 49ers’ final game on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams could have some sad undertones.
Under head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, the culture has changed in Santa Clara. With the masterful trade to acquire quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the current four-game winning streak, the vibe around this team is indisputably positive.
Who knows what’s going to happen if Reid hits the open market. He was adamant after their victory against Jacksonville that his family has settled and loved living here in the Bay Area. His little brother is a key member of the Stanford Cardinal secondary, so playing good football in the South Bay is a family tradition now.
The chips are on Lynch’s table, and although Reid doesn’t want to leave, he understands that the NFL a business.
Whether you’re against kneeling or not, the refreshing part about Reid is that he’s smiling again. He’s having fun with an ascending 49ers team.
You also can’t knock him for keeping his integrity, fighting for his beliefs and wanting to put a halt to police brutality and systemic racism.
His tenure with the Niners will be remembered in a number of different ways. But for me, I’ll remember Reid for being a good 49er, a leader, and somebody who didn’t shy away from the criticism or banter that he’s had to endure during his time in the Bay Area.
Sunday will be emotional for him, but — hopefully — he’ll be able to stick around on a franchise that’s trending in the right direction and continue to make a positive impact.
Bonta Hill of 95.7 The Game can be heard from 12-3 on the Greg Papa Show. Born and bred in San Francisco, he is a sports junkie who loves to sit in the lab (home), eats breakfast food for dinner, and has a newfound love for tequila. Follow at your own risk on Twitter @BontaHill.