Remembering Cowboys player, coach Dan Reeves

Dan Reeves never thought of becoming a soccer coach. After his playing days were over, the plan was to return home to Georgia, likely working for his father’s construction company before retiring to a farm. This life would have pleased him very well.

Instead, Reeves, who died at the age of 77 on New Years Day from complications from dementia, became one of the most successful head coaches in NFL history, one of the nine to win over 200 games combined in the regular season and playoffs. The former running back and assistant coach of the Cowboys has also appeared in nine Super Bowls as a player or coach, the third greatest in league history behind Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Reading these two sentences makes it hard to understand why Reeves is not in the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

Legendary head coach Tom Landry saw something in Reeves from the start, making him the league’s last official player-coach at just 26 in 1970. A knee injury had all but ended his playing career. , which was better than most would think, evidenced by his 16 best touchdowns in the league as a sophomore back in 1966. A feat all the more remarkable as Reeves wasn’t even drafted afterwards. playing quarterback in South Carolina.

“Coach Landry saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” Reeves said in 2018. “I knew my career was coming to an end. I thought about it, I heard about cut players. , but I’m ‘I’ve never heard of fired players. I’ve heard of fired but not fired coaches. So when he asked me to become a player-coach, here I have two chances for one. use.

“And I couldn’t have been in a better place working for Coach Landry, learning from one of the best ever.”

Reeves spent 10 seasons on Landry’s team and won two Super Bowls. While some this week referred to him as the offensive coordinator, Landry still called the majority of games, even though he never relied on assistant coaches more than Reeves and Mike Ditka. The duo served as offensive assistants together for eight seasons until Reeves became the league’s youngest head coach, at 37, for Denver in 1981. Ditka quickly secured his own leading opportunity with the Bears from Chicago the following year.

The two were almost inseparable as Landry’s top lieutenants, not only watching countless hours of movies and creating game plans, but also playing cards, cribbage, and golf. Plus, they were both fierce competitors, with Ditka having already reached such a point of frustration that he tore every card in the deck in front of Reeves’ face. They also regularly joined Landry on the golf course where the professor often beat them both.

“Mike and I got to see his side the others couldn’t see,” Reeves said of Landry. “He had a great sense of humor. You know, he came up with lines that would absolutely…

“The coach was a competitor too. Whatever we did, ping pong, golf, cards, he wanted to beat us like it was a game. We asked him to play golf once in the offseason and he said he couldn’t, it was too busy. Mike and I get to the pro’s store and he’s over there with the pro taking a lesson. He wanted to make sure he was hitting hard enough the ball before playing with us. “

Incredibly enough, after Reeves took the job in Denver, his relationship with Landry remained close. The two met weekly during the football season, sharing notes and thoughts on issues both on and off the pitch.

“He became more of a mentor to me when I became a head coach,” Reeves said. “He was always available even though we were competing. Neither Mike nor I would have become a head coach without him. We know he was telling teams we were ready for the opportunity. He just wanted what was best. for us.

“I think being a father and a head coach are interchangeable. There are a lot of things that make you a good father that will help you become a good head coach. Players are like your children. You have to teach them. and help them be their best, but you also have to care about them. I know when Coach Landry coached me he cared about him, and that was it. ‘one of his most important lessons that I have taken. “

When Landry passed away in 2002, Reeves was in the last of his four head coaching positions with the Atlanta Falcons. The last time the two spoke, Reeves wanted to tell his mentor how much he meant to him how much he loved her like a father. Words just never caught on.

“I think about that and I wish I could tell him so much. I mean, I think it’s true in life,” Reeves said. “The older I got I learned that you have to say these words because you might never get that chance again. I think he knew, however, how much I loved him, how much I cared for him. But you know, I would have liked to tell him.

“There is no doubt, as difficult as losing him was for me, there was a great sense of celebration because we knew where he was going. There is no doubt. That he is sitting at the right hand of the Father now. . “

May Reeves be with them both. Rest in peace.

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