State Your Case: Did Mike Reid make more than just Hall of Fame country music?

Ron Borges

Mike Reid always could play. He still can, although over the last 44 years it’s been on the piano not on a football field.

Yet for five years, Mike Reid was one of the most dominating defensive tackles in pro football before going off to become a Hall of Fame country music songwriter and performer. The question we ask is was he also a Hall of Fame defensive tackle?

For decades the answer was “no’ only because Reid retired after five seasons when injuries to his knee and especially his hand threatened his music career. By then he had been anchoring the defense of the Cincinnati Bengals between 1970 and 1974 like few others in the game, being widely recognized as among the game’s best defensive tackles.

Drafted seventh overall in 1970 after an All-America career at Penn State, Reid led the Bengals in sacks in four of his five NFL seasons, was twice selected All-Pro and named to the Pro Bowl and averaged nearly 10 sacks a season despite playing most games as an inside pass rusher.

After a strong rookie season, Reid had 12 sacks in 1971 and 1972 and 13 in 1973 at a time when sacks were not yet an official NFL statistic. Even often playing hurt in his final season, Reid did not miss a game in 1974 and registered seven more sacks before deciding making music held more interest for him than making quarterbacks’ lives miserable.

His 49 career sacks meant he averaged just a shade under 10 sacks a season and he missed only six games in his career, five of them coming in his rookie season. He was the definition of dominating and isn’t that the definition of a Hall of Famer?

Until the induction of Denver Broncos’ running back Terrell Davis into the Hall of Fame in 2017, a career as short as Reid’s would have disqualified him from Hall of Fame consideration but Reid was a full-time starter longer than Davis and, frankly, had just as many Hall of Fame worthy seasons (three) as Davis. So why has Reid been forgotten all these years while Davis was elevated?

Television for one. Super Bowls for another. Reid played an often ignored position on an often forgotten team that didn’t win two Super Bowls (or play in any) as Davis’ Broncos’ did. None of those facts however have anything to do with Reid’s play. Truth be told, if everyone on Reid’s Bengals’ were as competent and productive as he was, they would have. But they weren’t.

The problem for Reid was that the monotony and physical toll of pro football conspired against his having a long NFL career. With his lifelong interest in music growing, Reid stunned the Bengals by retiring after the 1974 season to begin playing with his band across the Ohio River in small clubs before moving to Nashville in 1980. There he became a successful songwriter for country artists like Ronnie Milsap, Larry Gatlin, Tanya Tucker, Alabama and others.

Reid never won a Lombardi Trophy but he did win a Grammy award in 1984 for best country song with “Stranger In My House.’’ He also wrote 12 other No. 1 songs, signed a performing contract with Columbia Records in 1990, had a second No. 1 hit, “Walk on Faith,’’ he both wrote and performed and then moved on to writing musicals. Reid has written seven musicals and in 2005 was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Mike Reid left the Bengals behind in 1975 and never looked back but if you do what you’ll find is the defensive line version of Terrell Davis. So the question is this: is it time the Hall of Fame’s senior committee take that look back at his brief but impressive NFL career?

Comments (3)
No. 1-2
brian wolf
brian wolf

Excellent piece, Ron.

Al DeRogatis of NBC Sports, thought Reid was a great player as well. Like WR George Sauer Jr, Reid retired in his prime and could have played well for a long time. Despite different eras, Reid was as dominant as Jerome Brown. Steve McMichael of the Bears was a great pass rusher as well but isnt remembered much.


Had no idea Mike Reid had the honors he did; 2/2/none isn’t bad at all for a five year career. He’s got a lot of company in the short but great career DT category, many from players who suffered career-shortened injuries such as Tom Sestak and Keith Millard, as well as from players with longer careers and short honors like Dave Butz. I’d probably induct Sestak, but pass on the rest of them with varying degrees of reluctance.

But Reid was I think destined for other things anyway. His music career was clearly as top drawer as his football one, maybe even more so. And you don’t get concussions and ground-up knees from playing the piano.

State Your Case