ATLANTA (USC SID) — Dan Reeves, who won a Super Bowl as a player with the Dallas Cowboys but was best known for a long coaching career highlighted by four more appearances in the title game with the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, died Saturday. He was 77.
A statement released by his family through former Falcons media relations director Aaron Salkin said Reeves died of complications from dementia. The statement said he died “peacefully and surrounded by his loving family at his home in Atlanta.”
“His legacy will continue through his many friends, players and fans as well as the rest of the NFL community,” the family said.
Reeves came to South Carolina in 1961 from Americus High School in Americus, Ga. He was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Gamecocks from 1962-64. At the end of his collegiate career, Reeves was the leading passer in Gamecock history, accumulating 2,561 yards passing, to go along with 16 touchdowns and three games with 100 rushing yards.
In 1962 and 1964, Reeves was named second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference.
His 69-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Bryant against Wake Forest in 1964 was, at that time, the fifth longest completion in school history.
In 1962, Reeves rushed for 124 yards against North Carolina State, was at the time, the 11th highest single-game total in Gamecock history. He followed that up with a 121-yard effort against the Wolfpack in 1964.
In 1977, he was inducted into the University of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame and in 2006, he was welcomed into the State of South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame.
Dan Reeves was one of nine coaches in NFL history to win 200 games, including the playoffs. He also won Coach of the Year honors with the Falcons and Giants and was one of six coaches to win the award with multiple franchises.
In a statement, the Broncos said, “We’re saddened by the passing of Ring of Fame Head Coach Dan Reeves, who led us to three Super Bowl appearances. We send our sincerest condolences to his family.”
Reeves was a versatile player who played a key role in the Cowboys becoming an NFL powerhouse in the 1960s under Tom Landry, but his own coaching career — stretching over three teams and 23 seasons — is where he truly left his mark on the league.
Just 37 when he took over as coach of the Broncos in 1981, he built a team around quarterback John Elway that made three Super Bowl appearances over his 12-year tenure. But Denver never won a title under Reeves, getting blown out in all three of its trips to the title game.
After a bitter parting from the Broncos, Reeves moved to New York to coach the Giants in 1993.
He was fired after four seasons but quickly caught on in 1997 with the Falcons, a homecoming for the man from Georgia who grew up in Americus. In just his second season with a franchise that had experienced little success, Reeves guided a team known as the “Dirty Birds” to a 14-2 record in the regular season and the Falcons’ first trip to the Super Bowl. Reeves again came up short of a championship, losing to Elway and the Broncos, which left him 0-4 as a Super Bowl coach.
Reeves engineered a trade that brought Michael Vick to the Falcons and remained as coach until the 2003 season, when he was fired after the team won just three of its first 13 games.
He ended his coaching career with a record of 190-165-2.
Reeves remained in Atlanta after his retirement, most notably serving as an adviser to Georgia State when it launched a football program that now plays in the Sun Belt Conference.