After the Kansas City Chiefs dispatched the Tennessee Titans Sunday to grab a spot in Super Bowl LIV, Thoroughbred trainer Graham Motion sent a text to congratulate Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
And, like he always does, Reid responded with a thank you.
“When you look at those guys, you think of them on a pedestal but he’s a down-to-earth, nice guy,” Motion said Monday. “It’s fascinating the success he’s had.”
Like many in and out of football, Motion will root for Reid to land his first Super Bowl Feb. 2 in Miami. In 21 seasons with the Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles before that, Reid has won 221 games (regular season and playoffs) – behind just Don Shula, George Halas, Bill Belichick, Tom Landry and Curly Lambeau and the most for a head coach without a championship-game victory. In 2011, a week after Animal Kingdom won the Kentucky Derby, Reid came to Fair Hill Training Center to meet Motion. They’ve stayed in touch, though Motion more regularly communicates with Kansas City general manager Brett Veach (then a scout for Reid and the Eagles).
“Brett was (and is) a racing fan,” Motion said Monday of the visit to Fair Hill, which also included offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “I didn’t know him, but he’d played at Delaware and was aware of Fair Hill and aware of (Animal Kingdom) and he’d said to Andy that there’s a Derby horse at Fair Hill and maybe they should come see him. Andy was fascinated at how it all worked. The thing that came out of it was how similar the treatments were for the athletes whether it was a human or a horse. It was a pretty neat morning.”
After the Fair Hill visit Motion attended an Eagles practice, talked football and racing with Reid and company, met Reid’s wife Tammy and got a feel for life as an NFL coach. To see Reid still doing it, at a championship level, impresses.
“The one thing that really brings it home is how hard they work,” Motion said. “When the season’s on it’s full-time, 24-7, similar to what we do but more intense. I’m guessing Andy doesn’t leave that place much when the season’s on. I don’t think people would realize. It’s a life, a life commitment.”
Reid was a graduate assistant at Brigham Young University in 1982 and hasn’t missed a season since – moving from San Francisco State to Northern Arizona to the University of Texas El Paso, the University of Missouri, the Green Bay Packers and his first head coaching job with the Eagles in 1990 and the Chiefs since 2013. He’s won nine NFL coach of the year awards, and has watched 10 assistants get head-coaching jobs in the league – with two winning Super Bowls.
In racing, compare him to a potential Hall of Fame trainer without a Derby or Breeders’ Cup win.
“There aren’t many people within the sport who won’t be rooting for him unless they have a rooting interest or a connection to one of the other teams,” Motion said. “I think people feel he deserves it.”
Back in 2011, Reid seemed genuinely interested in the horses under Motion’s care. He came to the barn, quite comfortably stood next to a muck basket, and watched Animal Kingdom cool out after galloping. Later, the coach went to the track to watch a set including Breeders’ Cup winner Shared Account train and marveled at the expertise of exercise riders putting horses through their paces.
“I don’t know how they do it,” he said then, while standing along the outside rail. “It’s something to see it up this close.”
Reid asked about the dirt and Tapeta training surfaces, checked out the vibration-therapy stall and the cold, salt-water spa, shook a few hands (even with Ravens fan/blacksmith Mark Pino) and talked shop with Motion about training and coaching. They agreed that each profession comes with plenty of long hours and a fair bit of stress.
“Graham has been here since 5 o’clock this morning so I can relate,” Reid said then. “He’s got long days like we do and the pressure involved will wear on you. Graham seems like a very cool guy and he’s got things under control, very organized, it’s impressive.”
Reid and the Eagles had been to the Super Bowl, and lost to the Patriots, in 2005. The 2011 season would end in an 8-8 mark and no playoff berth, and he was fired after a 4-12 season in 2012. He joined the Chiefs the next season, taking Veach (whose role gradually expanded) with him. Reid’s NFL head-coaching career began in 1999, when his current quarterback Patrick Mahomes was 4 years old. That longevity registers with Motion.
“He obviously loves it, he thrives on it and I think it’s incredible,” the trainer said. “It’s so neat to see the relationship with Mahomes. You see him sitting on the bench with him, going over things and talking about plays. You don’t see a lot of guys do that and it shows how unique he is. He’s not above it.”