Tag Archives: John Reaves

Gator nation mourns loss of former Gator QB John Reaves

  • John Reaves 4(Listen to 23 minute interview with Reaves from 1997 below)

Former All-American quarterback at the University of Florida and pro quarterback for the Tampa Bay Bucs and Bandits, John Reaves, was found dead in his South Tampa home on Tuesday. Authorities are investigating the cause of death. Reaves, who was 67, was found by his son David on Tuesday afternoon. He told authorities it looked as if he had passed away in his sleep.

Editor’s note:

Reaves was considered to be a legend at the University of Florida.  He was the starter on the 1969 Gator team that finished the season 9-1-1.  By the time his career ended at UF in 1971 he was the NCAA’s all-time leading passer and held the SEC record for touchdown passes with 54.

He then went on to be a first-round draft choice in the NFL and played pro football for 14 years from 1972 to 1987.  Ten years were in the NFL and 4 in the USFL.  He played for the Philadelphia Eagles, the Houston Oilers, Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Bandits, and the Bucs. From 1990 to 1994  Reaves was an assistant coach at the University of Florida. In 1995 he became an assistant football coach at the University of South Carolina where he worked coaching quarterbacks and serving as the passing game coordinator.

He also struggled with demons, namely alcohol, with a variety of sessions in rehab. It was a subject he was not afraid to talk about during a 1997 interview with me,  just before the 1997 NFL draft.

Reaves weighed in on the subject of Gator players leaving school early for a chance at the pros, as in the case that year for Gator players Reidel Anthony and Ike Hilliard who were expected to be first-round NFL draft choices.  It was just four and a half months after the Gators won the College National Championship beating FSU 52-20 under the leadership of signal-caller, QB and Heisman Trophy winner, Danny Wuerffel.

In our interview below from 1997, Reaves talked about the pros and cons of leaving school early. He also addressed how academic standards had changed since he was in college and how he thought that was a good move to help players find more meaningful paths once their football careers were over.  And he addressed his struggle with alcohol after growing up with family members who also faced the same addiction.

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Short segments from the interview above were included in an award-winning sports feature titled, The Dream To Go Pro.”

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It was one of my favorite features to work on and included interview segments from not only John Reaves, but also Peyton Manning, Danny Wuerffel, Chris Weinke, Billy Donovan, Jeremy Foley and Perry McGriff to name a few.

Reaves, who divorced some time after the interview above, continued to battle drugs and alcohol throughout his life, but turned to religion for solace.  At times in his life he was active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, his son David Reaves said his father was among the plaintiffs in a suit filed by former NFL players against the league over concussions and brain trauma. The family is looking to donate Mr. Reaves’ brain toward research for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head hits

He had three grown children and five grandchildren.  A public funeral will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at South Tampa Fellowship Church at 5101 Bayshore Blvd.

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Tampa Bay Times article:

John Reaves

John Reaves, former Robinson, Gators and Bucs quarterback, dies at 67

TAMPA — He sprouted on the college football landscape when psychedelia was at its heyday. In the immediate wake of Woodstock, John Reaves dropped back and tossed spirals with fearless, free-spirited aplomb.

“I never saw him intimidated, afraid, in the least,” former University of Florida backup center Larry Morris said.

“He would throw an interception and never think twice about dropping back the next time he got the ball and letting it go. He was just a damn gunslinger.”

It was the type of abandon that partially defined the era. On and off the field, Mr. Reaves experimented, took risks, flourished, fizzled. As decades passed, he became a legend.

And a cautionary tale.  Click here to read more of this article in the Tampa Bay Times
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Jacksonville Times-Union article:


Former Gators QB John Reaves, one of school’s most prolific passers, dies at 67

John Reaves, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Florida Gator history until the Fun and Gun Era under Steve Spurrier, died on Tuesday at his Tampa home. He was 67.

According to tampabay.com, Reaves was found by his son David, who checked on him after he was not heard from in several days. His death is under investigation by the Hillsborough County Medical examiner.

Reaves played at Florida from 1969-1971 and broke the passing records that were held by Spurrier. Reaves is still seventh on UF’s all-time school career passing yardage list with 7,549 in three years (freshman could not play varsity sports at the time) and eighth in TD passes (54).

When he left school, Reaves was the NCAA career leader in yardage and touchdowns. UF went 20-12-1 during his three years, including a 9-1-1 record when he was a sophomore.

To read more of the Jacksonville Times Union story Click here:

The Dream To Go Pro

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The Dream To Go Pro         (originally aired on WUFT in June 10th,1997)

Part 1

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For many Florida sports fans, the 1997 NFL will go down as one of the most memorable.  All three major universities had draft picks in the first round. Playing in the pros is a dream for many college athletes, some even forsaking a degree to follow that dream. Florida State University’s Walter Jones made that decision when he got drafted as the sixth pick by the Seattle Seahawks. The University of Miami’s Yatil Green also chose to leave early as the Dolphins first pick and Kinard Lang made that choice when picked by the Washington Redskins. And at the University of Florida wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony chose to forfeit their senior year at UF to follow their pro dreams.  As Donna Green-Townsend reports, it’s a tough choice and one that worries some coaches and parents.

Part 2

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Full script of Part 1:

For many Florida sports fans the 1997 NFL draft will go down as one of the most memorable.  All three major universities had draft picks in the first round.  Playing in the pros is a dream for many college athletes.  Some even forsaking a degree to follow that dream.  Florida State University’s Walter Jones made that decision when he got drafted as the sixth pick for the Seattle Sea Hawks.  The University of Miami’s Yateel Green also chose to leave early as the Dolphins first pick.  And Kinnard Lange made that choice when picked by the Washington Redskins.  And at the University of Florida wide receivers Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony chose to forfeit their senior year at UF to follow their pro dreams.  It’s a tough choice and one that worries some coaches and parents.  Donna Green-Townsend prepared this report:

(nat snd of Mick Hubert….. “Wuerffel back to throw…..Hilliard…..fade up a touchdown throw to Anthony)  (fade up song of Pink Floyd’s Money song)

(Montage or voxpop of bites from John Reaves, Jeremy Foley, Lee McGriff and Danny Wuerffel) 

John Reaves, “Show me the money.  That’s what the market is nowadays and more power to ’em.”

Jeremy Foley, “Yes, money is one thing but feeling productive getting up in the morning and contributing to the lives of our kids and society or whatever have you, that’s where your degree comes in.”

Lee McGriff, “financially it’s about like hitting the lottery”

Danny Wuerffel, “It’s a big money game.  There is a lot of money’  You get money that you can’t get at any other job coming out of college for the most part.”

(MONEY SONG UP FULL AND DOWN)  Big Money, something two University of Florida football players probably considered when they made a choice between finishing college or turning pro.  And for wide receiver, Ike Hilliard,  the first round draft choice of the New York Giants and Reidel Anthony, the pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that choice may have a handsome payoff:

John Reaves,  “you know both of those young men are about to become millionaires,”

John Reeves knows what Hilliard and Anthony face.  The former Gator star quarterback was a first round draft choice for the Philadelphia Eagles and played fourteen years in the pros.  Now an assistant coach at the University of South Carolina Reeves finds it hard to fault the decision to leave school early.

John Reeves,  “One of the reasons you go to school is to prepare yourself for a good job.   Well obviously the University of Florida’s helped them to do that and they’ve got a great job.  They’re going to make a lot of money.”

But for every Hilliard or Anthony there are others who may pass up a college degree only to get nothing in return.  Mike Cobb a sportswriter for the Lakeland Ledger has followed college football for 23 years.

Mike Cobb,  “In the NFL draft that was just held there were 44 underclassmen that declared for the draft, and 16 of ‘em weren’t drafted. Uh, so now they’re going to have to scrounge around and get a contract as a free agent somewhere or go out and find a job somewhere…or come up with the money to pay their way back to school and just go to school and not play sports and just be a college student.  And I doubt that most of the sixteen would do that.”

But the hard facts that less than one percent of college players ever make it to the next level pales next to the dream of every athlete to make it professionally.  University of Florida Head Basketball Coach Billy Donovan:

Billy Donovan,  “I think it’s only normal for every kid to dream.  I think one of the biggest problems and I really disagree with it is you’ve got everybody out there saying , “you’ve got a better chance of being struck by lightning than you do of  making the NBA,”  and you know that might be realistic.  But that’s all I was told growing up.  And I was told all about what I could not do and I played in the NBA.  And I played for a very short period of time.  But I reached that goal.  And I would say that 95% of the people I came into contact with when I was a youngster when I said I wanted to play in the NBA laughed in my face  or said you can’t do that.  Forget about it worry about getting your degree and all this other things.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having stars in your eyes.”

It’s a constant question that dogs college athletes and those who coach them.  Is it better to take a chance on the dream now or hang in there and get a degree that might provide some security later on.  FSU rising quarterback Chris Weinke knows firsthand about pursuing a professional career.  After leaving college early to play baseball for the Toronto Bluejays he discovered a harsh reality.  Now at 24 he’s come back to school to play football and more importantly to get a degree:

Chris Weinke, “The most important thing that I can tell or that I can say about the whole situation is it’s not going to last forever. Um.  I think the most important thing is to get a college degree because that’s really what’s going to help you in the long run.  And I think the average time spent in the NFL is 3 ½ to 4 years right now once you make it.  And what are you going to do when you’re 28 years old or 29 years old.  That’s the important thing and I can’t stress that enough.  And you know I think that I realize that now more than I did coming out of high school.”

But that’s an argument that may be hard to sell to a young man or woman who has the opportunity to make sometimes literally millions.  And it’s an argument that coaches and even parents might have trouble making.  Former gator standout.  Lee McGriff, who spent a couple of years in the pros  and whose son now plays on scholarship for the gators says turning down that kind of opportunity is hard.

Lee McGriff,  “Someone said if you sent your child to college and in their junior year IBM or whoever came knocking and said, ‘gee will you come to work for us now.  Here is x millions of dollars.  We will train you.  Would you send your child?  Now that doesn’t mean IBM can’t fire them five years later or anything else, but if it was another line of work and they had  the unique opportunity to leave school and make that kind of money so immediately, would you advise the to do it.  Most probably would.”

One athlete who did decide to put a hold on his pro dreams to stay in college is Tennessee’s ‘Golden Boy,’ Peyton Manning, the quarterback who turned away from a possible first pick first round draft selection and possibly millions to try and achieve collegiate goals:

Peyton Manning  “I said I wasn’t going to look back when I made my decision and I’ve certainly held true to that. ..I really enjoy this semester of school after the decision.  My decision was a unique decision and Ike Hilliard’s decision to leave was totally different than mine I think.   I never fault anybody for leaving early.  It’s a personal decision and my decision to stay was what I wanted to do.  I wasn’t making a statement for what people should do,  I was doing what I wanted to do, although I certainly don’t mind being a ambassador for college football.”

At her home in Patterson, Louisiana, Ike Hilliard’s mother, Doris Francis, says she hopes her son will follow in the footsteps of   former gator running back and Dallas Cowboy football star Emmitt Smith who came back to complete his collegiate goals.

Francis,  “I hope so.  I hope he does.  He told me he said, “momma, I can always go back to school and I just said okay I just hope you do, but like I say, that’ll be his decision.  His mom, I don’t make those decisions, but I’m hoping he decides to go back and get his degree.”

But it’s the players themselves who finally decide and even when parents and coaches tell them the cold, hard facts that message may not have much effect.    1996 Heisman Trophy Winner Danny Wuerffel, himself a fourth round draft choice for the New Orleans Saints says each player has to face a reality check himself:

Wuerffel, “It’s a good job, but there are so many factors you can’t control with injuries and things like that, that it’s kind of like building on not a very solid foundation.  I think the guys that really understand the things that last in life, are the people that really you know at least hopefully in the beginning are serious about their education, but so often it takes people you know, as humans we have to learn it the hard way and you get guys who go give it a shot and don’t make it and end up back at the university to finish up.” soc