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Dan Reeves, player and coach who participated in nine Super Bowls, dies at 77

New York Giants v Denver Broncos

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 25: Head coach Dan Reeves of the Denver Broncos walks on the sidelines during Super Bowl XXI against the New York Giants at the Rose Bowl on January 25, 1987 in Pasadena, California. The Giants defeated the Broncos 39-20. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)

Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Dan Reeves, an NFL player, assistant coach and head coach who retired having participated in a then-record nine Super Bowls, has died at the age of 77.

A quarterback at South Carolina better known for his running ability than his passing, Reeves signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cowboys in 1965 and initially was asked to try to make the roster on defense and special teams, but when the Cowboys had injuries at halfback and decided to give Reeves a try at the position, he flourished.

Reeves’ best season as a player came in 1966, when he led the NFL with 16 touchdowns. In eight seasons with the Cowboys, Reeves had 1,990 rushing yards and 1,693 receiving yards, and he totaled 42 touchdowns. He played in two Super Bowls, helping the Cowboys win Super Bowl VI. He then joined the Cowboys’ coaching staff as an assistant to Tom Landry, where he coached in three more Super Bowls.

In 1981, the Broncos hired Reeves as their head coach, making him the youngest head coach in the NFL at the time. In 1983 the Broncos acquired John Elway, and Reeves and Elway got to the Super Bowl together after the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons. But they lost all three Super Bowls, Reeves and Elway began to have a personal falling out, and Reeves was fired after an 8-8 season in 1992.

Reeves then spent the next four years coaching the Giants, and he was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 1993, but the Giants declined after that and he was fired again following the 1996 season. The Falcons hired him in 1997, and in 1998, the Falcons had one of the most unexpected Super Bowl appearances in NFL history, winning the NFC Championship Game and facing Elway and the Broncos in the Super Bowl, where Reeves’ Falcons lost.

That was Reeves’ ninth and final Super Bowl appearance, setting a new NFL record for the most combined appearances by a player or coach. (That total has since been surpassed by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.)

Reeves’ family released a statement saying he died peacefully, surrounded by loved ones, after a long illness.