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Dan Reeves

 

Article Provided by The Gamecock Newspaper
By: Alex Riley
Assistant Sports Editor

Issue date: 9/30/05 Section: Friday Football Blitz

 

"Deacon" Dan Reeves ruled the roost at quarterback during his time at Carolina.

 

The career and professional success of Dan Reeves, arguably one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, got its roots in Columbia when he was a USC quarterback from 1962 to 1964.

"Really and truly, (USC) was the only school that offered me a football scholarship at the time," Reeves said. "I had gone through my senior year and had missed four games with a broken collarbone about the middle of the season. So I didn't get many inquiries as far as football was concerned. I got the opportunity to play in the Georgia all-star game. From that I was voted MVP. But I just felt like the university wanted me when nobody else wanted me. I felt like that was the place I wanted to go."

Even though he wasn't a highly touted player out of Americus High School in Georgia, then-coach Marvin Bass told Reeves that the best player would be the one under center for the Gamecocks, a promise Reeves knew would stand true coming from Bass.

"After I played in that Georgia High School all-star game, I had gone to several schools, and they promise you all kinds of things. They're kind of guaranteeing you things that you knew were kind of questionable if they would live up to them," Reeves said. "When I met with Coach Bass, he was very honest about it. He said, 'Look, we've got four or five quarterbacks coming in and if you play for us, it's going to be because you're the best one we've got.' And that's exactly what I wanted to hear."

Bass would later become part of Reeves' coaching staff in Denver as well as in Atlanta.

"He was the first coach that I wanted to hire," Reeves said. "Typical of coach Bass, he was coaching in the Canadian league. I offered him a job with the Denver Broncos, and he said 'I'd love to come, but I promised these people here I'd coach for them this year and I'm going to fulfill that obligation.' That shows how honest he was, because most coaches would have dropped the job in Canada in a heartbeat to come to the NFL."

When he took over USC's offense, Reeves had a plethora of talent to back him up, including ACC Player of the Year Billy Gambrell and NFL star J.R. Wilburn.

"Playing with great players is what makes you that much better, too," Reeves said. "We had some good players there. You've just got to be fortunate to have the opportunity and the chance to play with a lot of good athletes."

Though he only compiled an 8-21-4 record during his time under center, Reeves managed to leave the program with some memorable performances, including wins against Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia.

"In college, I started my first game up at Northwestern," Reeves said. "Just the excitement of being a starting quarterback, I think I was 17 years old at the time. Just being a starting quarterback in college, I'll remember that for a long, long time."

Reeves' most impressive statistical game came against Nebraska in 1964, when he threw for a career-high 240 yards in a 28-6 loss in Lincoln.

When Reeves finished his career at USC, he left as the leading passer in Gamecock history, tallying 2,561 yards through the air to go along with 16 touchdowns. Today he sits 12th on the all-time yardage list. His three games with 100 yards or more rushing ties him for the eighth most in Gamecock history, with his career high of 124 coming against N.C. State in 1962.

"It was a thrill for me to be able to play college football," Reeves said.

When he left Carolina after his senior season, Reeves was in almost an identical situation to the one he had been in leaving high school. The NFL draft had passed him by, leaving him as a member of the free-agent market. Eventually, Reeves became a running back for the Dallas Cowboys under coach Tom Landry.

"The Dallas Cowboys really signed me as a safety," Reeves said. "I ended up playing running back because we had a bunch of injuries in a scrimmage one day. I kind of got to that position by accident. Until I tore my knee up in 1968, I was the starter there."

After his rookie season, Reeves became the starter for the Cowboys, posting back-to-back seasons with more than 600 yards, including a 757-yard campaign in 1966 during Dallas' run to an appearance in the NFL championship game against Green Bay. That knee injury hampered Reeves the remainder of his playing career, but it would start what would make him into one of the NFL's greatest coaches.

"I was very fortunate to get into coaching. Because of a knee injury, coach (Tom) Landry ended up asking me to be a player-coach," Reeves said. "I ended up getting to do that for three years. Up until a couple of years ago, I was the last one to do that. So, I got started kind of by accident. I got involved into coaching and found out it was something I really enjoyed doing. I kind of thank coach Landry for giving me that opportunity. I learned a lot of things from him that helped build me a foundation of what I wanted to do when I got my chance."

After being an assistant coach for Dallas until 1980, Reeves took on the head coaching job at Denver, a team he led to the Super Bowl three times while coaching one of the game's all-time greatest quarterbacks in John Elway.

After 11 years and three Super Bowl appearances in the Mile High City, Reeves was offered the job in the Big Apple as head man of the New York Giants. After five seasons, Reeves made his final stop back in his home city of Atlanta, coaching the Falcons to a Super Bowl in only his second season.

"To be the head coach of Atlanta was something you think about it might happen, but you think you might be in Denver your entire career," Reeves said. "I was very fortunate I got the job here in Atlanta. I'd been gone ever since 1965 and to come back here was just a tremendous thrill. And then for us to go to the Super Bowl a couple of years later was just great."

In 22 seasons, Reeves totaled 210 victories, good enough for sixth place on the all-time totals list behind greats such as Don Shula and his mentor Landry. He also posted nine seasons with 10 or more wins. But his biggest success might have been being able to appear in nine Super Bowls, four as a player and five as a member of a coaching staff.

"I think I've been a part of nine Super Bowls, and you've got to feel like you're very lucky because a lot of guys go through their career and never go to the Super Bowl," Reeves said.

Now retired from coaching, Reeves spends his time in Atlanta relaxing and enjoying life, doing things he didn't get to do while coaching.

"I'm doing that radio show from 8 to 10 on Sirius Radio Monday through Friday, and other than that, just playing golf and watching college and pro football," Reeves said. "I get a chance to watch both now."