Tribute to Dan Reeves

Photo by Jeffrey Beall

Ivette and I were truly saddened to learn of Dan Reeve’s passing this New Year’s Day at the age of 77. I consider it a high honor that he graciously contributed to my book which published exactly one month ago. Fortunately, my memories of Dan are captured within the pages, and I’ll share a few here.

Dan was a former halfback, teammate, a Georgia native like me, and most of all a personal friend. We played in the Ice Bowl together in 1966. He was tough. He was hit so hard on one play, his face mask broke and his tooth went through his lip. Dan put his hand over his mouth, but there was no blood because of the extreme cold. He just kept playing.

We were in Super Bowl V together as well. In fact, Dan served thirty-eight years as a player and coach in nine Super Bowls. Absolutely remarkable, and what a legend! He was such a great guy, and what I’ll remember most is his character. He was a fellow Christian and always quick to give credit to others.

Perhaps the best way to honor him personally is to share the last words he ever spoke to me:


You don’t have to be a talker to be a leader. Pettis, you led by how hard you worked to improve yourself.

Dan paid me another terrific compliment when he said that after he became a head coach in the NFL, he looked to draft a tight end like me.


I was influenced a great deal by Pettis. He’s the kind of tight end I’d want (as a coach). You can’t have a good running game without that position because my offense ( as a head coach) was built around the same thing I had learned in Dallas as a player. The blocking aspect was always influential when I was looking for tight ends as a coach and Pettis was the one I always looked at as the mold for the kind of tight end I was looking for — a guy who could run like a deer, catch the ball, and be a great blocker.

I’m incredibly humbled that Dan left behind some extremely generous words on my behalf. He will always be revered as a legendary lifer in the NFL. Rest in peace, my friend, and our heartfelt condolences go out to the Reeves family.