Daniel Edward Reeves led a principled and legendary football life. He became the first person to guide the Falcons to the Super Bowl and touched many lives along the way.

With the chill of winter in the air on a sunny day in Buckhead, a celebration of his life and a funeral was held in his honor Friday at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Quarterbacks from John Elway to Michael Vick attended the service, along with several of the “Dirty Birds” from the 1998 Falcons team.

Once the service started, after the greeting everyone stood and sang all four verses of “How Great Thou Art” out of a hymnbook.

A prayer was said, and there was a Bible reading before four people spoke about Reeves.

ExploreMark Bradley remembers Dan Reeves

His brother Charles, the oldest of four children, spoke first.

He told of growing up in Bethel Baptist Church in Americus, his younger brother’s love of football and how he tried to share everything he learned from the legendary Bobby Dodd from his time as a manager of the Georgia Tech football team.

He spoke of their golf trips and of Reeves getting that freshmen cheerleader Pam to go on that first date with him at South Carolina.

“Pam, he worshipped the ground you walked on,” Reeves said to Dan Reeves’ widow.

He noted Reeves’ omission from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’m certain that he’s in God’s Hall of Fame,” Reeves said. “I’m going to miss him always.”

ExploreDan Reeves remembered as consistent, caring coach

Broadcaster Shannon Sharpe, who was drafted by Reeves out of Savannah State in the seventh round of the NFL draft, spoke next. Sharpe noted that he didn’t prepare any remarks because the speech had been writing itself for the past 33 years.

He recalled that April 23, 1990, was the first time he heard Reeves’ voice. He called after the Broncos drafted Sharpe.

Sharpe told stories of his struggles to get his footing in the NFL and how Reeves always had an encouraging word.

“It’s my job to get you on the field; it’s your job to stay there,” Sharpe said. “Coach Reeves wanted me to succeed.”

Sharpe credited Reeves for leading him to a Hall of Fame career and for “breaking the generational curse of poverty” in his family.

Former Falcons kicker Jay Feely followed Sharpe.

“He was hard,” Feely said. “He was tough, but he loved you. You didn’t want to let him down.”

ExploreFormer Falcons coach Dan Reeves dies at 77

Feely spoke of Reeves’ Saturday night dinners for team members and officials at road games. Reeves would sometimes do magic tricks, but always picked up the tab.

Feely remembered a time when the team was in New Orleans and Reeves ran into Vick at the hotel ATM. It wasn’t working, and Reeves asked Vick how much money he needed. Vick told him $1,000. Reeves pull out some cash and handed $1,000 to the QB.

Vick, stunned by Reeves having a wad of cash that large, asked the coach why he was carrying so much money.

“I haven’t made up my mind on if I’m going to the casino or not,” Reeves said.

Pastor Charles Gardner then spoke of Reeves’ work within his church and how the church was having a fundraiser to buy land for a parking lot.

Gardner said the church wouldn’t need a fundraiser if everyone paid their tithes like Pam and Dan Reeves.

“I grew up Baptist, I didn’t know I had a choice,” Reeves blurted out, according to Gardner.

Reeves did a lot of community service with the Tommy Nobis Center, the Atlanta Food Bank and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His ambition was to improve the lives of others.

Reeves, who coached the Falcons from 1997-2003, died early Jan. 1 at the age of 77 because of complications from a long illness, according to his family.

Reeves appeared in nine Super Bowls as a player (Cowboys), assistant coach (Cowboys), or head coach (Broncos, Falcons). He won two of them: Super Bowl VI as a player and XII as an assistant coach, both with the Cowboys.

In his second season with the Falcons behind quarterback Chris Chandler, running back Jamal Anderson, defensive end Chuck Smith, linebacker Jessie Tuggle and the rest of the “Dirty Birds” they went to the Super Bowl.

With Reeves recovering from quadruple-bypass heart surgery along the way.

Reeves finished with a record 201-174-2 as a coach, including 49-59-1 with the Falcons. He also was a head coach for the New York Giants.

Reeves did some work in television and also served as a consultant for Georgia State when it was researching whether to start a football program. He also did some work for an Atlanta radio station.

Reeves was born in Rome on Jan. 19, 1944.

He became a multi-sport standout at Americus High School and earned a scholarship to play football at South Carolina.

Reeves was tough, but fair.

“It was a beautiful service,” Anderson said. “A service that exemplified what he was all about. His faith, family and football. It was cool to hear different people speaking, but just to see the impact that he’s had on so many people spanning generations and different organizations.”

Former Falcons offensive lineman Kynan Forney attended the service.

“I’ve got a lot of love for coach Reeves because he gave me a chance,” Forney said. “I have even more love for him because after I got drafted, he called my mother on the phone and gave her his home number, office and cell. He gave her his wife’s number and said they’d look out for me. Till this day my mom still talks about that.”

Former Falcons player and executive Billy “White shoes” Johnson worked with Reeves.

“He tried to make people believe in themselves,” Johnson said. “If you’ve got a job to do, do it and do it the best you can.”

caption arrowCaption
Shannon Sharpe talks at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church during Dan Reeves's memorial service Friday, January 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

 Shannon Sharpe talks at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church during Dan Reeves's memorial service Friday, January 14, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

caption arrowCaption
Shannon Sharpe talks at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church during Dan Reeves's memorial service Friday, January 14, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The Bow Tie Chronicles

About the Author

Editors' Picks