Former Gators All-American QB John Reaves dies at 67

By Adam Silverstein
August 2, 2017
Former Gators All-American QB John Reaves dies at 67

Former Florida Gators quarterback John Reaves, an All-American who left the program as the NCAA’s all-time leading passer, was found dead in Tampa on Tuesday. He was 67.

Reaves was born in Alabama but a resident of Florida for most his life, living and playing football in the Tampa area. He set a then-SEC record for touchdown passes with 54 in his career to go along with his 7,581 passing yards, the top mark in NCAA history at the time.

Along with wide receiver Carlos Alvarez and running back Tommy Durrance, the “Super Sophs” led Florida to a 9-1-1 record in Reaves’ first season as starting quarterback in 1969. He went on to earn first-team All-American honors in his senior season of 1971. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Reaves was inducted as a Gator Great in 1985.

“All of us Gators were sad to hear about the passing of John Reaves,” said Steve Spurrier in a release from Florida. “John was one of the all-time best quarterbacks to play here. That ’69 Gators team — with John and Carlos Alvarez and Tommy Durrance — that came within one game of winning our first SEC championship was one of the really special teams in the history of our school. … It’s sad to see that John has passed on, but we’ll celebrate his life down there in Tampa with so many good friends and Gators. His memory will always be with us.”

Despite his propensity for throwing interceptions (59 in his college career), Reaves was selected No. 14 overall in the 1972 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he played for three seasons. After turns with multiple other franchises, he was signed by Spurrier, a fellow former Gators QB, to serve as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Bandits when the USFL started in 1983. Reaves ended his 14-year career (11 seasons in the NFL, three in the USFL) as a replacement player for his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 1987 NFL strike.

When Spurrier took over at Florida, he brought Reaves along as an assistant coach for two short stints (1990-92, 1994), but he never continued as an coach past 1997. Reaves battled substance abuse throughout his career and late into his life.

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