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David Reaves file
- 2009 - Tennessee, quarterbacks coach
- 2007-08 - South Carolina, quarterbacks coach
- 2005-06 - South Carolina, assistant quarterbacks coach
- 2004 - South Carolina, defensive backs coach
- 2002-03 - South Carolina, graduate assistant coach
- 2001 - Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School, assistant coach
- Reaves was a standout quarterback at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C. He went on to play at Division I-AA Appalachian State, where he ranks ninth on the school's career passing yardage list and third all-time in career completion percentage.
- Reaves is the son of former University of Florida All-American and NFL quarterback John Reaves and is UT head coach Lane Kiffin's brother-in-law. His younger brother, Stephen, is a reserve quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.
When it comes to connections, David Reaves is pretty well set.
His dad is a former NFL quarterback and college assistant coach. His brother-in-law occupies the biggest office inside the Neyland-Thompson Sports Center. And his old boss is a Hall of Fame coach in waiting.
But Reaves, Tennessee's 31-year-old quarterbacks coach, didn't call in any favors to become an assistant coach at a major college program. He simply put his best foot forward and showed he was the best man for the job.
Just ask the guy who hired him.
"I had never worked with David. I didn't have a lot of background on David. It's not like David and I had been together or knew each other for many years," says former South Carolina offensive coordinator Skip Holtz, now head coach at East Carolina. "Being around him I thought he'd make a really good coach one day."
Eight years after he first met Holtz, Reaves is well on his way.
A good start
Fresh off a season spent coaching at Tampa (Fla.) Catholic High School in late 2001, Reaves volunteered to help with the Outback Bowl. At a few of South Carolina's team outings, Reaves chatted up Holtz.
Turns out, Holtz loved Reaves' passion for football and his upbeat attitude. Conversation was easy, and Holtz left Tampa promising to help Reaves out if he ever got the chance.
Shortly thereafter, the Gamecocks had an opening for an offensive graduate assistant.
"David was one of the guys that first came to my mind," Holtz said. "He played quarterback. He's got a good football mind. He understands the game. I thought he'd be a great GA."
In 2002, Reaves returned to Columbia, where he graduated high school before shipping off to play quarterback at Division I-AA powerhouse Appalachian State.
And Holtz couldn't have been more pleased with Reaves' addition to the staff. Or more accurate in his initial assessment.
"I was very impressed with his work habits and the way he came in. He showed up at work every day; he was upbeat and positive and worked really hard," Holtz said. "He did a great job with the scout teams. It didn't take long to know he was going to be a good football coach."
So good in fact, that when the Gamecocks had an opening on their staff following the 2003 season, Reaves filled the vacancy on the recruiting trail as a graduate assistant.
But when it comes to recruiting, there's no manual. At least there's not one beyond a list of NCAA do's and don'ts.
"You could sit down and read the recruiting manual from front to back, but it doesn't make you a good recruiter," Holtz says, laughing. "It's not, 'I have to say this at this time and that at that time.' If you're not trustworthy, if people don't believe you, if you come across pushy, if you're short, if you can't connect with people then it doesn't matter what guidelines you follow as far as what you say."
A natural recruiter
When it came to recruiting, Reaves didn't need a how-to guide. Turns out, he was a natural. Those same skills that charmed Holtz worked in living rooms and high school gyms, too.
"It's all about building relationships with the coaches, with the family, with the prospects. You've got to be personable. They've got to trust what you're selling and trust what you're telling the kids," Reaves says. "Just building relationships is the main part of it with recruiting."
Growing up in a football family, Reaves had plenty of practice building relationships.
Born in Cincinnati while his father, former Florida All-American quarterback John Reaves, played for the Bengals, he spent two years in Minnesota and a year in Houston. The family settled in Tampa - at least for a few years - while his father played for the USFL's Bandits under head coach Steve Spurrier. The family moved again when John Reaves went on to become an assistant coach under Spurrier at Florida and later at South Carolina under head coach Brad Scott.
David Reaves' outgoing personality was a matter of necessity.
"I grew up all over the country, really, with my father playing in the NFL," Reaves says. "When you move a lot as a kid, you better be able to communicate or build some friendships, or else you're going to be sitting there by yourself.
"I think just growing up, moving around a lot and getting to meet people kind of helped me with recruiting."
And it didn't take long for Reaves to develop a reputation as a strong recruiter.
"I think everybody felt as strongly as I did about David's personality, the way that he would recruit because he could connect with people," Holtz said about the initial decision to send Reaves on the road as a GA. "When you first put him out, you say, 'If he can go out and sign one player, then that's a plus.' He took the ball and ran with it."
A big opportunity
In part because of his success on the recruiting trail, South Carolina head coach Lou Holtz - Skip's father - hired Reaves as his full-time defensive backs coach for the 2004 season. That year turned out to be the elder Holtz's final season with the Gamecocks. The replacement, it turned out, was Spurrier, although Reaves wasn't sure if he'd be allowed to remain on staff.
"When he first got hired, everybody was sitting there wondering, 'Is he going to keep us, is he going to let us go?' You didn't know what was going on," Reaves says. "I was fortunate that Coach Spurrier kept me on the staff, and I learned a lot from him."
Reaves was one of three assistants Spurrier retained, and he spent the next two years as the Gamecocks' assistant quarterbacks coach.
"It was a tremendous opportunity for me to be able to work with a legendary coach and to learn from him," Reaves said of Spurrier. "Now I can just take what I've learned from him and take what I've learned from other coaches and put that in with my own philosophy, and hopefully these guys will play great next year."
After the 2005 season, Spurrier elevated Reaves to recruiting coordinator where he helped land a top-10 class in 2007 - believed to be best class in the Gamecocks' history - and earned a spot in Rivals.com's annual list of top-25 recruiters. In 2007 and 2008, Reaves served as the lone quarterbacks coach as Spurrier, who at one point served as the Gamecocks' head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, began delegating more duties to his assistants.
With a proven reputation as a recruiter and an apprenticeship with one of the game's best offensive minds, Reaves fit the profile for an assistant coach on Lane Kiffin's staff. Reaves, who developed a close bond with Kiffin over the years, finally had the chance to coach with his brother-in-law that he hoped for and the opportunity to be closer to his extended family.
But that doesn't mean it was easy to leave South Carolina.
"It was tough because Coach Spurrier was great to me," Reaves said. "He was a phenomenal coach to work under, just from the teaching aspect the fundamental aspect as a coach. He was great to me. When this opportunity presented itself, it was a tough situation for me because I had built so many great relationships in South Carolina.
"Then I got a chance to coach here at Tennessee with my family. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. Got a chance to coach here at UT, which is traditionally a powerhouse school and got to coach in the SEC and then got to coach with my family. I couldn't turn that down."
In December, Jonathan Crompton was ready to head home for the holidays. Finals had just ended, and a long, disappointing season was finally over. On his way home to North Carolina, the senior stopped by the football offices to meet his new quarterbacks coach.
"It was a brief meeting because I was on my way out of town," Crompton said. "He had just gotten here, but I could take away that he was really excited and really eager to get going. As a player, that's one thing that you really look for."
Crompton knows about transitions. Reaves is the fourth quarterbacks coach in his time at Tennessee.
But leaving the football complex, the UT quarterback - much like Skip Holtz did nearly eight years ago - had a good feeling about Reaves.
"He's fun to be around," Crompton says. "You can tell he loves the game. He knows what he's talking about. It's fun to learn under him. You can tell he's knowledgeable, and he explains it really well. It helps since he's a little younger, he can relate to us a little better. It's fun."
Reaves' enthusiasm is hard to miss when he talks about trying to help Crompton and junior Nick Stephens rebound from tough seasons in 2008.
"We've got to build those guys back up to get back up on the top," Reaves says, acknowledging UT's history of elite quarterbacks and strong quarterback coaches. "Everywhere I go it's, 'Who's going to be the quarterback? Who's going to do this at quarterback?' Our guys are working hard. Our guys are working hard this offseason. They worked hard all of spring practice. I'm excited to see how they play next year."
As for how Reaves will fare at Tennessee, Holtz knows the answer. The coach who gave him his start knows that his one-time graduate assistant will embrace the challenges and opportunities presented at Tennessee.
"We gave David an opportunity, but David made the most of it. We didn't do (the work) for David. We just gave him an opportunity," says Holtz, recalling his start in college coaching as a graduate assistant for Florida State coach Bobby Bowden. "He did a great job. He's earned where he is right now because of the job he did when he was given that opportunity.
"When I saw a guy like David and his passion to get into the game, I just said, he reminded me a lot of myself as far as the way that he was brought up around this game. We gave him his (chance), and I'm excited for David, excited with where he is. He's worked his tail off to get it."
Drew Edwards covers University of Tennessee football. He may be reached at 865-342-6274.