Kavis Reed Still Won’t Identify Saskatchewan Roughriders 13th Man

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CALGARY, AB, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 2: Kavis Reed head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos reacts as his team loses their game to the Calgary Stampeders in the second half of their CFL football game September 2, 2013 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Todd Korol/Getty Images)

It’s the gaffe that will never stop giving for anyone who loathes the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It was just around the time when memories of Tony Gabriel’s haunting “The Catch” from the 1976 Grey Cup faded with a new generation of Riders fans. But then a new misplay of the century swooped in to leave a younger group of Roughriders wearing their own set of horns.

Montreal Alouettes kicker Damon Duval had the opportunity to win the 97th Grey Cup with a 43-yard field goal with no time on the clock. He missed. But for whatever reason, on that cold November, 2009 night in Calgary, the Saskatchewan Roughriders had 13 players on the McMahon Stadium field. Duval had a second chance 10 yards closer, and blasted the Alouettes to their seventh Grey Cup, and first since 2002.

Kavis Reed Still Won’t Identify Saskatchewan Roughriders 13th Man

Riders Former Special Teams Coach from 2009 Won’t Throw Anyone Under the Bus

He’s been a head coach and general manager and he’s worked for three other teams since that fateful Grey Cup Sunday nearly eight years ago. But to this day Kavis Reed is still answering questions about the night his Grey Cup ring slipped through his fingers.

“It never ate at me to be perfectly clear,” says the guy who was in charge of special teams when Duval’s first missed kick appeared to deliver the Roughriders a Grey Cup. “The day after the trip home and coming in and greeting the fans and knowing what had happened. I’ve spoken about it numerous times, I’m very comfortable speaking about it. Obviously, history has a way of healing it.”

Does it though? Entering his 22nd season in Canadian football, Reed has yet to be a part of a Grey Cup-winning team. He insists the bitter memory of a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty has not spoiled the legacy of that team meant to him.

“That was the greatest team that I’ve been a part of. Everyone stuck together, everyone protected each other, we showed what a championship quality team is really about. It’s really about having each other’s back. That was a championship team for more ways than one and I think the province is very proud of that football team.”

Reed Has Owned Responsibility

Sean Lucas was on the field during the first kick, but was on the sidelines for the fateful dagger. Jason Armstead was the kick returner in the end zone usually responsible for counting his teammates in front of him. But it is still Reed who stands up and bears the brunt of the burden of the 13th man.

He would later score a head coaching gig with the Edmonton Eskimos, in a city where Steve Smith’s own goal in 1986 cost the Edmonton Oilers a chance at five straight Stanley Cups. Even that goal still gets talked about to this day. But Smith got his redemption a year later when Wayne Gretzky handed him the Stanley Cup to celebrate another championship that helped sooth the sour memory.

There has been no such silver lining for Reed, at least not yet. But he still swears he isn’t haunted by his lack of a Grey Cup ring.

“People are going to forget the names of the championships, but they’re not going to forget the championship characters and teams. That’s what it’s about. Having a ring on your finger does not define you as a champion, it’s about how you’ve conducted yourself and about the people you’ve helped.”

Still Proud of that Season

He recently earned his first GM job, and ironically enough, with the Montreal Alouettes. His connection to the 2009 Roughriders remains, as his first move in Montreal was to acquire Darian Durant. After bringing the Riders to the 2009 Grey Cup, he brought them back in 2010, only to lose again to Montreal.

But as Reed ponders what might have been in his one season as a Roughrider. What made the team special was not the fact that they were the only first-place finish in team history since 1976.  Nor the fact they held it together for an entire season while their own GM, Eric Tillman, was on administrative leave. Nor even the Grey Cup appearance that he is most proud of all these years later.

“I’m most proud of the fact that no one can clearly say who was the 13th guy. There’s been a lot of speculation, no one has said it. TMZ hasn’t been able to get it. All of those things about that football team have made us better and me as a person. I’m stronger and I understand what leadership is.”

Whether it’s fair or not, it’s that leadership and willingness to talk about it openly along with his refusal to let it slip who the 13th man really was. No matter where Kavis Reed works or whatever success he has in his football career going forward, he will always be the face of the 13th man.

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