NEW ORLEANS -- Ed Reed couldn't stop smiling Tuesday.
"I've never wanted to do interviews so bad in my life," Reed said at Super Bowl XLVII Media Day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Tuesday.
"Knowing that my family has been through some things, losing my brother, to come home and wake up, look at that Mississippi River to start my day, I'm just thankful, man. ... It's so much bigger than football. I'm just so happy to be here, so happy," Reed said.
Watching Reed bask in the moment Tuesday, I couldn't help but be so happy for him, too. Reed is an all-time great, a former defensive MVP and a future Hall of Famer that the public doesn't know that much about. He's a wildly sharp, funny, offbeat guy. His easy charm drips with his New Orleans background. And he's not afraid to reflect on his journey.
"I've thought about the walks to practice by myself, at night, walking home from practice carrying my pads, with my dad's work shirt over my shoulder pads," Reed said.
Reed's presence might just make me root for the Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. But he's not the only guy I've seen this week that I'm happy to see make it this far. Making it to the Super Bowl is the culmination of a life's journey that started decades ago for many players.
Here's my quick list of the other folks that are cool to see on the big stage, with Reed ranking first:
2. Randy Moss: I know he's been here before, but I needed more Moss on the big stage. Perhaps the 49ers' veteran is not the greatest wide receiver of all time, but he's probably the best deep threat. And you can certainly argue he's in the top five.
3. Frank Gore: He's been one of my favorite players to watch for nearly a decade because of his complete game. For awhile, it looked like the 49ers' running back would be stuck on losing teams for his whole career until coach Jim Harbaugh saved him. Plus, Gore has great taste in restaurants: I saw him Monday night at Jacques-Imos with Moss.
4. Justin Smith: Until his recent triceps tear, the 49ers' standout had missed only one game in a largely unheralded 12-year career. And he missed only two games with the injury. It's cool to see perhaps the defining 3-4 defensive end of his era (Richard Seymour? Aaron Smith?) make the big stage.
5. Anquan Boldin: The Ravens receiver says he's a "completely different guy" than the last time he made the Super Bowl. Boldin started his career as one of the best after-catch receivers in football. Now, he's one of the best at grabbing contested passes out of the air. The common thread of those two skills: toughness.
6. Patrick Willis: He's the prototypical modern linebacker because of his coverage skills and complete game. In a game with a lot of potential legends, it wouldn't surprise me if Willis authors the most legendary performance.
7. Jim Tomsula, 49ers' defensive line coach: An interim coach for one game after coach Mike Singletary was fired in 2010, Tonsula is one of the most respected assistants in the game (and he's a good friend of NFL.com's programming director Henry Hodgson, which never hurts.)Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.