"Deacon" Dan Reeves
ruled the roost at
his time at
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
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
Bass would later become part of Reeves'
coaching staff in Denver as well as in
"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
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."
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
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