Andy Reid has waited 15 years for his shot at Super Bowl redemption.
Now in his seventh season at the helm of the Kansas City Chiefs, the 61-year-old, mustache-laden coaching icon leads Missouri’s National Football League franchise into battle against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night in Super Bowl LIV.
This represents the Chiefs' first championship appearance in more than 50 years. Long-retired are former greats Len Dawson and Otis Taylor. Current superstars Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and their supporting cast aim to restore gridiron glory in Kansas City after a half-century without lifting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Reid’s football journey has spanned several states, levels and roles. His last stop before embarking on a lengthy NFL coaching career was at none other than the University of Missouri.
Reid served as the Tigers’ offensive line coach from 1989-91. He wasn’t in Columbia long, but his mid-Missouri connections have now spanned five decades. The Tigers who played for a much younger yet every bit as driven Reid can’t stop singing his praises about the effect he had on their lives, both with and without their helmets on.
“I loved my time in Columbia," Reid said this week in the lead-up to the big game in Miami. "The University of Missouri, I hold close to my heart. That’s a great place. We weren’t as good as we wanted to be, but we were on the rise when I was there. ... What a great opportunity it was working for Bob Stull there and getting to know the people of Columbia. It’s a great place.”
Young and relatable
Reid found his way to Missouri from UTEP when Stull brought his entire Miners staff with him as he took over the Big Eight Conference program. Frequent moves happened in Reid’s early coaching years, with stops at San Francisco State, Northern Arizona and BYU, his alma mater.
Reid started in Columbia as a 30-year-old, impressively young for a Division I assistant coach.
“I felt like that kind of helped him relate to us,” said Andy Lock, who played at MU from 1985-89. Lock was a right tackle and co-captain for his senior season, Reid’s first in Columbia. “His personality was very warm. He had kind of a fun sarcasm to him. So he kind of naturally gravitated to us pretty quick and we gained respect for him pretty quick just because he's young and we felt like he was kind of part of us when he came onboard.”
Gene Snitsky, better known for his professional wrestling career and five-year run with the WWE in the 2000s, played college football at Missouri from 1988-92.
Snitsky was a defensive lineman his first two years in Columbia, but toward the end of his sophomore season, Reid pulled him into the offensive line group, where he spent the rest of his time at Missouri.
“It was almost like he was a fellow offensive lineman,” Snitsky said of Reid. “He just fit right in with everybody and everybody fit in with him.”
Winning over his guys
Before Reid coached a single game at Missouri, he was on the road recruiting, finding players for the unit he would lead.
One of Reid’s shortest trips to look at a prospective Tiger was in December 1988 to Jefferson City for a meeting with Mike Bedosky. Bedosky, a senior on Jefferson City’s 1988 state championship football team, had just started his final season wrestling for the Jays when Reid visited.
Reid watched Bedosky’s entire wrestling practice from a crowded room built in the 1930s that doubled as the Jays’ film room during football season.
Bedosky vividly remembers Reid wearing a pink sweater, shirt and tie and “perspiring like nobody’s business” as the heat was cranked up to accommodate the 20 or so wrestlers in the dead of winter. Reid and Bedosky chatted after practice ended.
“He just kind of sat there and dripped for a while,” Bedosky said of Reid’s appearance. “That made a huge first impression that he was willing to do that — just to get to know me better and get to know something about me.”
Bedosky had previously written off Missouri as a college destination during head coach Woody Widenhofer’s final season in Columbia. Division I schools from around the country came calling.
Longtime Jefferson City head football coach Pete Adkins rarely let players talk to college coaches during their senior year, Bedosky said. And because the Jays won the Class 5 state title in 1988, those conversations didn’t fully commence until after Thanksgiving.
After Bedosky visited Stanford and Indiana, Missouri made him its final in-home pitch less than 72 hours before signing day.
Reid, Stull and outside linebackers coach Steve Telander spoke with Bedosky and his mother. The visit eventually wrapped up, and the MU trio started to head back to Columbia.
“They're going out the door and I'm sitting there, you know,” Bedosky recounted. “I turned to my mom and I go, ‘You know, Mom, I think I'm going.’ And she goes, ‘Where, to bed?’ I said, ‘No, I'm going to Mizzou.’ And so we called them back and coach Reid gave me a big bear hug.”
Building a rapport
Stull’s first season in charge at Missouri didn’t go as planned, with a 2-9 record and a lone Big Eight win over Kansas State.
But people within the program took notice of Reid’s work ethic and rapport with players, knowing he was setting a foundation for success in the trenches.
“Every player you talk to that ever worked with him loves him because he's a great teacher, No. 1,” Stull said of Reid. “You always know he’s on your side, he's never going to demean you or anything like that. He's going to push you and you know, as long as you're learning what you're supposed to learn and busting your ass, you're going to be fine.”
Reid knew the time to be serious as Missouri prepared for games but was also aware of the type of players he was coaching.
Every so often, the Tigers' offensive linemen would play pranks on Reid, who enjoyed the element of surprise.
One occasion saw a remote control covered in athletic gel. Reid picked it up, and not only was his hand covered in the slimy substance, but he got shocked from the batteries inside.
Reid never had a harsh retaliation. It was genuine bonding for his offensive line fraternity.
“Nobody ever sees him smile on the sidelines, (but) he's got a great sense of humor, he really does,” Stull said.
'Sweet and sour'
Missouri doubled its win total from two to four in 1990, beating Kansas, ranked Arizona State, Utah State and Kansas State.
Reid was on the sidelines for the now-infamous “Fifth Down Game” that October. Playing in that game was Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who was Colorado’s starting running back.
"I had a chance to play Eric Bieneimy and that Colorado team (1990 national champion) and … they cheated," Reid deadpanned this week. "Took them five downs to beat us, so I remind him of that often."
In 1991, Missouri won three games, lost seven and tied Indiana. On Nov. 23 of that year, the Tigers fell in the annual Border War against Kansas — which would be Reid’s last game as a Missouri or collegiate coach.
Mike Holmgren, who coached with Reid at BYU in 1982, offered him an offensive assistant position with the Green Bay Packers.
“It was sweet and sour,” Reid said of his decision to leave Missouri. “I was leaving a team that was just starting to climb at Missouri and get us over the hump. That was the sour part. I felt like I kind of ditched out on those guys and then we’d all been together for a long time. But then, I had a great opportunity with Mike Holmgren at Green Bay and it helped prop me into a position where I could be a head coach.”
Over Christmas, Reid drove to meet Bedosky in Jefferson City to tell him the news of his impending departure in person.
“I was excited for him because that's just a huge opportunity for him,” Bedosky said of Reid leaving for Green Bay. “But also, you know in my mind, I'm like, ‘Well, who the heck are we going to get? How can we replace coach Reid? You know, the man I've bonded with over the last three years?’
“From middle school to high school, the coaching staff stays the same, it doesn't change. And so, I didn't really ever think about him leaving, I guess, but you knew that he had that special ability, that knack. He had that drive. I didn't know what his vision was and obviously (he’s) one of the best coaches the NFL has ever had, but you knew he was special and he was different.
"As an 18-, 19-, 20-year-old, you didn't know how lucky you were when you had him there.”
Rising to the helm
Reid was an offensive assistant coach for the Packers for seven seasons. Starting in 1995, he was the assistant offensive line and tight ends coach.
In January 1997, Green Bay won Super Bowl XXXI over New England, and Reid got his first taste of championship glory. His coaching duties changed for his final two seasons at Lambeau Field, as he was the Packers' quarterbacks coach and an assistant head coach.
Then the Philadelphia Eagles came calling. Reid landed his first NFL head coaching job, a role he’s now held for 21 years combined in two different cities.
Reid was 130-93-1 in 14 seasons leading the Eagles and led them to nine playoff appearances, five conference championship games and a Super Bowl loss to New England in 2005. During his time in Philadelphia, he put an emphasis on drafting a strong offensive line.
Kansas City hired Reid as its new head coach in January 2013, four days after Philadelphia didn’t renew his contract.
Reid was coming back to the Show-Me State with something to prove.
Reid brought Dave Toub from Chicago with him to the Chiefs. Toub was one of the coaches Stull moved from El Paso to Columbia along with Reid. Toub stayed at Missouri until all of Larry Smith’s staff was let go after the 2000 season.
Toub reunited with Reid on the Eagles staff, then spent nine seasons as the Bears’ special teams coordinator.
He’s been with Reid every step of the way in Kansas City.
“The thing about Andy is his consistency,” Toub said. “He never wavers. Good or bad, he never gets too high or too low. He coaches the heck out of guys. There is nothing he leaves out — he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to coaching. He holds players accountable, he holds himself accountable, and that just filters on down through the whole thing. It’s awesome.”
Remembering his roots
Reid has led the Chiefs to a winning season in each of his seven years in Kansas City, including double-digit wins six times.
His continued success hasn’t made him forget where he came from, as he still hears from Stull and plenty of others frequently.
Lock said Reid helped during the 2019 NFL Draft process, when Missouri alum Drew Lock, Andy Lock's son, was looking for his future home as a projected early-round selection.
Reid wasn’t interested in taking another franchise quarterback, as he had done in 2017 with Mahomes.
Drew Lock, a Lee’s Summit native, was taken by the Chiefs’ AFC West rival Denver Broncos and took over the starting role halfway through this season. That included a trip to Kansas City on Dec. 15 in the middle of a snowstorm.
For Andy Lock, it was son vs. former college position coach. The Chiefs were victorious 23-3.
“I understand that the NFL is obviously big business and when the ball is kicked off, it is what it is. Let’s get it on,” Andy Lock said of the Denver vs. Kansas City showdown. “It was neat. It's kind of funny that the world's come full circle and the guy that coached me was coaching against my son at a level like that. That's a pretty surreal setting and a neat deal. So I was just really happy to be there. I wish it would have turned out a little differently, but it's a great experience.
"And I think that's hopefully something they can meet up again many years down the road.”
Years in the making
For Reid and the Chiefs, Sunday night has been many decades in the making.
Fifty years have come and gone since Kansas City last reached the Super Bowl. The 23-7 win over Minnesota on Jan. 11, 1970, is a distant memory and a feeling multiple generations weren't alive to experience.
Reid's 221 wins over 21 seasons are the most of any NFL head coach without a championship.
The coach and city's collective wait for a title could finally come to an end, but regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain: Reid will maximize the abilities of each player, just like he did at Missouri some 30 years ago. The spotlight has become brighter, but at heart, Reid remains the same affable leader from his time in Columbia.
“I think he deserves it more than anybody,” Toub said of Reid winning a Super Bowl. “He’s definitely earned it. He’s had a lot of championship teams, and to win the Super Bowl would be the icing on the cake.”
Nate Davis and Doug Farrar of USA TODAY contributed to this story.