Dan Reeves. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys.

Dan Reeves, NFL legend and former Lake Highlands neighbor, has died. Reeves, 77, passed away early Saturday at his home in Atlanta “due to complications from a long illness,” according to a family statement.

Reeves was drafted by Dallas in 1965 and played with the team until 1972. After the Cowboys opened their practice facility on Forest Lane near Abrams Road in the summer of ’67, he and many of his teammates purchased homes in our neighborhood and settled in with their families.

In his final year as a player, Reeves served a dual role as assistant coach on the team. He returned as assistant coach from 1974 to 1980 before accepting a job as head coach of the Denver Broncos. He later served as head coach for the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.

Reeves participated in nine Super Bowls – the 3rd most for an individual. He went twice as a player, (including winning Super Bowl VI), three times as assistant coach (including winning Super Bowl XII as Cowboys offensive coordinator), and four times as head coach. Reeves was NFL Coach of the Year twice and has the 10th most wins by an NFL head coach with 190.

Lake Highlands alums have been reminiscing on social media, admiring the man and recalling their interactions with him while he and his family lived in the neighborhood. Dennis Davidson calls him “a true hero.”

“When I was a youngster and found out where his house was, a friend and I decided to go over there and ask for his autograph. My friend chickened out and I went alone. Never mind it was 8:00 am on a Saturday. Mr. Reeves came to the door in only his pajama bottoms. I kindly asked for his autograph and after rubbing the sleep out of his face, he invited me in. After I thanked him, he said, ‘You’re welcome.’ I treasured that photo for years.”

Max Morton, sharing on the “You know you grew in in Lake Highlands if…” Facebook page, says knowing Reeves was an “honor.”

“The Reeves family lived on Robin Hill Lane. I lived on Vistadale Drive. There was literally one house between theirs and mine,” recalls Max Morton on the “In the 70’s when he was a player, then a coach with the Cowboys, before they moved to Denver, he would come home from work and throw passes to all us kids, including his, playing football in the yards and street. He loved to say, ‘go long’ and we would tear out as fast and far as we could, and he would sail that ball over our heads. I thought he was Superman. Good man, good neighbor, well lived life. RIP Dan Reeves.”

Kathleen Rasmussen Whitehead remembers a man – and his teammates – who were bigger than life.

“Circa, 1969 – I worked at TG&Y at White Rock Shopping Center. There was a little store (not 7-11) next to the donut shop. One day I was buying a Dr. Pepper and suddenly felt this giant wall behind me – I was 15. The wall was Dan Reeves, Bob Lilly and Walt Garrison. The biggest men I had seen in my young life. We lived down the street from Dan Reeves. He mowed his own grass in shorts and no shirt – the ladies would all find yardwork to do while he was mowing.”

Gil Brandt was vice president for player personnel when Reeves was in his heyday. He took to Twitter to wonder how his old buddy hadn’t earned a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame.

“Seriously, how is Dan Reeves not in the HOF? Played or coached in 9 Super Bowls. Two-time SB champ, two-time coach of the year.”

Dan Reeves served as a player and coach for the Cowboys in 1972.

The Dallas Cowboys training facility on Forest Lane opened in 1967.

Dan Reeves. Photo from Twitter.

Sports Illustrated 1967