ATLANTA – Former NFL legendary player, head coach and native American Dan Reeves, who trained in four Super Bowls and retired as one of the most successful coaches in NFL history, died on New Years Day at his Atlanta home at the age of 77 .
According to a statement posted by his family on NFL Network, the legendary NFL player and coach passed away peacefully early Saturday morning and was surrounded by his loving family in his Atlanta home. The statement went on to say that Reeves “died of complications from a long illness at the age of 77” and that “his legacy continues through his many friends, players and fans and the rest of the NFL community.”
As the NFL head coach, Reeves coached the Denver Broncos (1981-1992), the New York Giants (1993-1996) and the Atlanta Falcons (1997-2003). He led the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances after the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons and led the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII after the 1998 season. All four of these Super Bowls ended in losses. While he slacked off as head coach on his four Super Bowl appearances, Reeves ended his coaching career with a total of 190 coaching victories and is the ninth most successful coach in NFL history, according to the Associated Press.
Reeves is the only person in NFL history to appear in multiple Super Bowls as both a player and a coach. As a player, Reeves was part of the Dallas Cowboys team that won Super Bowl VI in the 1971 season.
Reeves was born on January 19, 1944 in Rome, GA, but grew up here in Americus. He was a pre-eminent multi-athlete at Americus High School, where he played football, baseball, and basketball. After suffering a broken collarbone during his senior season that resulted in him missing four games, the University of South Carolina was the only school that offered him a football scholarship. However, after winning the MVP trophy at the Georgia High School Football All-Star Game, other schools showed interest, but Reeves decided to stick with the Gamecocks. In 1961, Reeves was also named to the all-state basketball team.
Tom Gunn, who was a Reeves football teammate at Americus High from 1958 to 1960, told the Americus Times recorder that Reeves was a great person and had a tremendous passion for football.
“He was an excellent person, kind to everyone. He was passionate about football. He was really good at it, ”said Gunn. “I remember a story about him from Coach (Jimmy) Hightower. Dan’s arm had been injured or something and we were playing a big game. Dan had been injured and was dying to get back in the game, and Coach Hightower wouldn’t let him. That was, so to speak, a sign that he was a passionate athlete. He wasn’t going to let an injury stop him from playing. Dan was a really, really, really passionate soccer player. That was what he liked to do. Dan was a very nice person along with all of his brothers and cousins. His sisters were also good athletes. There was always a Reeves who played college sports when I was in high school and before and after. They were all excellent players, but somehow Dan stood out. He was a scholarship holder. I remember Dan very well. He was a good guy, ”Gunn continued.
As a college football player, Reeves was a three-year starter quarterback for the Gamecocks from 1962 to 1964, ending his college career as the leading passer in Gamecock history with 2,561 yards of passing and 16 touchdowns.
Though undrafted after graduation, Reeves signed with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 1965. He started in the safety position but was later transferred to the halfback after a series of injuries depleted the team’s depth.
According to Wikipedia, Reeves set a franchise record in 1966 as a running back with 16 touchdowns (eight rushing and eight receiving), had over 1,300 all-purpose yards, finished sixth in NFL rushing, led the NFL in touchdowns, and finished sixth in points.
In 1967, Reeves released consecutive seasons of more than 600 yards. He finished second in the team with 603 yards in rushing and third in reception with 490 yards. In week 8 of the 1967 season against the Atlanta Falcons, Reeves set a franchise record for most touchdowns in a game (4).
Reeves played a total of eight seasons with the Cowboys. During that time he accumulated 1,990 rushing yards, 1,693 received yards and scored 42 touchdowns. In each of his eight years playing for the Cowboys, the team reached the playoffs every year, defeating the Miami Dolphins 24-3 in Super Bowl VI after the 1971 season. Reeves also threw a touchdown pass when Dallas lost in the “Ice Bowl” to the Green Bay Packers in the 1967 NFL title game.
After retiring as a player, Reeves became the youngest NFL head coach in 1981 when he became head coach and vice president of the Denver Broncos. As the Broncos head coach from 1981 to 1992, Reeves led the team to six post-season appearances, five division titles, three AFC championships and three Super Bowl appearances (Super Bowl XXI, Super Bowl XXII and Super Bowl XXIV).
In 1993, Reeves was hired as the head coach of the New York Giants, leading them to an 11-5 record and a place in the playoffs. His 1993 season record with the Giants was then and still is the best a Giants head coach ever had in his first year. He was also named Associated Press Coach of the Year in 1993 after helping the Giants improve from a 6-10 record the previous year. However, Reeves was fired in 1996 after losing two seasons.
In 1997, Reeves was hired as the Atlanta Falcons’ head coach and was tasked with turning a long-time loser into a winner, which he did in just two years. After a 7-9 in his first year as head coach of the Falcons, Reeves led the club to a 14-2 record and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIII in 1998. Unfortunately for Reeves and the Falcons, they lost 34:19 to his former club, the Denver Broncos. However, for his success in 1998, Reeves was named NFL Coach of the Year. Reeves remained the Falcons head coach until 2003, but the team’s only other playoff appearance under his supervision came in 2002 when he led the Falcons to a 9-6-1 record with starting quarterback Michael Vick. Atlanta won its first-round playoff game that year on the road against the Green Bay Packers 27-7, but lost in the second round to the Philadelphia Eagles 20-6. After a 3:10 in Atlanta’s first 13 games The 2003 season asked Reeves for a sacking, and Wade Phillips served as the interim head coach for the final three games of the season.
In addition to helping build NFL teams’ fortunes, Reeves was heavily involved in founding Georgia State University’s soccer program in 2007.
On Friday, September 14, 2018, Reeves returned to his hometown of Americus to be Honorary Captain during the coin toss before the Sumter County (then Americus-Sumter) Panthers competed against the Shaw Raiders.
Reeves leaves behind his wife Pam Reeves, three children and six grandchildren. Reeves and his future wife dated in high school where Pam was a cheerleader. The couple married in 1964. Funeral arrangements were not made public.
The information in this article comes from news outlets such as www.thehill.com, www.giants.com, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Reeves, www.ajc.com and https: //www.legacy .com / us / obituaries / atlanta / name / dan-reeves-obituary? id = 32052447.