Former Gamecock Dan Reeves has found success at every turn. After quarterbacking the Gamecocks from 1962-1964, his professional football career took him to a record nine Super Bowls as a player and a coach. Reeves, who was inducted into the South Carolina Association of Lettermen Hall of Fame in 1977, was recently inducted into the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame for his 12 seasons (1981-1992) as the head coach, leading the team to three Super Bowls.
“I had chills up and down my spine,” Reeves said of being honored at halftime of the Broncos game with the Kansas City Chiefs last month. “When they unveiled my name in the stadium, and the big statue that they unveiled on the Friday before the game out in front of the stadium, it was just really neat.”
Originally from Rome, Georgia, South Carolina showed early interest in Reeves as a high school player, and even when other schools tried to lure him away later, he stuck with his original commitment.
“I ended up being MVP at the Georgia high school all-star game,” Reeves said. “Several other schools came back to me then, but South Carolina took a chance on me when nobody else did. I felt like I needed to honor that.”
Reeves added that he had no regrets going out of state for his college career.
“That was four great years of my life,” Reeves said of his time at South Carolina. “I was fortunate to go there the first year that Marvin Bass was the head coach. It was a great experience. He had a lot of influence on me, on and off the field.
Reeves’ relationship with his college coach continued in his professional career as Bass was on his staff while he was coaching the Broncos and, later with the Atlanta Falcons. Now living in Atlanta, Reeves still gets back to campus from time to time. He spoke at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Banquet in Columbia last fall, and at the request of Coach Steve Spurrier, he spoke to the Gamecocks before the game against Florida at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Steve has done such a tremendous job at South Carolina,” Reeves said. “It makes you proud to say you went to the University of South Carolina.”
“That was four great years of my life. I was fortunate to go there the first year that Marvin Bass was the head coach. It was a great experience.
Reeves was not drafted coming out of South Carolina, but he was able to prove he belonged and transitioned to running back, playing eight seasons for the Dallas Cowboys (1965-1972).
“I signed as a defensive back and the Cowboys tried me at different positions,” Reeves said. “I was really fortunate that through some injuries to other guys, I was able to play as a rookie in some of those preseason scrimmages and made the team. Then the next year, I ended up starting. So it was just a dream come true.”
His best year on the field came in 1966 when he scored 16 touchdowns, which was tied for the league lead that season. He went to two Super Bowls as a player, winning Super Bowl VI in 1972. His coaching career actually began before his playing career ended as he served as a player-assistant coach beginning in 1970.
“I got beat out for my position by Calvin Hill in 1969, who was the Rookie of the Year,” Reeves said. “Coach (Tom) Landry saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and he asked me if I’d be interested in being a player-coach. So I did that for three years. Being a player-coach made it an easier transition to get into coaching.”
After retiring as a player, he spent several years as an assistant coach and later offensive coordinator with Dallas before the Broncos hired him as their head coach in 1981. After 12 years and three Super Bowls in Denver, Reeves became the head coach of the Giants, spending four seasons in New York. He became Atlanta’s head coach in 1997, spending seven seasons with the Falcons, including the greatest season in that team’s history in 1998 with a berth to Super Bowl XXXIII.
Reeves retired after 23 years as a head coach in 2003 and spent some time as a broadcaster for the Westwood One radio network. Looking back, Reeves has a long list of individuals who made an impact on his career.
“We had a lot of great players when I was with the Cowboys,” Reeves said. “Bob Lilly, Leroy Jordan, Don Perkins, Don Meredith – those guys had an influence on me in the way they prepared themselves. The way we were taught by Coach Landry had a huge influence on me, and Coach Bass meant a lot to me as well. I also coached some great players in John Elway and Roger Staubach. They taught me a lot about that position, and you’re not going to be successful as a coach if you don’t have a good quarterback. I had great running backs too. I had Tony Dorsett and Jamal Anderson. Defensively, Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson when I was in Denver meant an awful lot.”
As he was recently honored by the Broncos, Reeves continues to share the credit of any success he has had with those around him.
“You can’t do it by yourself,” Reeves said. “It starts with ownership and of course you have to have good people in your front office, coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and you have to have great players. So the success there in Denver is just a reflection of the help of a lot of people.”