BUCPOWER.COM INTERVIEW - DAVE REAVIS
This interview took place in August 2007. Dave Reavis was one of the original Buccaneers. Selected with the Bucs' 2nd pick of the expansion draft from the Super Bowl-winning Steelers, he played eight seasons with Tampa Bay and started nearly 100 games at left tackle. John McKay famously once said about him in 1978 - "The first position on my offensive line-up is left tackle. And I know I can write Dave's name down and he will be ready to play. But for the rest of the offense, I need a phone book."
Thanks to fellow former Buc Steve Wilson, Dave got in touch with me from his home in Colorado and I was happy to be able to let him have several games from his playing career on DVD to hopefully bring back some good memories. In return, Dave kindly took part in a phone interview which I have to say, has been one of the best conversations I have had the privilege to have since starting this site.
Was it a shock being switched from defense to offense when you were drafted as a Steeler?
Just a bit! The first I knew of it was when I got a call from Pittsburgh's scouting department which was along the lines of "Welcome to the Steelers and we're really looking forward to seeing you play offensive line". I asked the guy if he was sure he had called the right Dave Reavis as I played defense, but he was sure about what was going to happen. So I turn up to training camp in July never having blocked anyone in my life, and I line up against All-Pro Dwight White, a member of the Steel Curtain. That was my first introduction to playing offensive line. It got better from then on!
Was it also a shock going from the best team in the NFL to the worst?
I guess it was but I never really played much in Pittsburgh. Yes I won two Super Bowl rings but as a back-up and on special teams. When I talk about my playing career, I always refer to the time I spent in Tampa, not Pittsburgh. But I guess I did go from best to worst.
What are your memories of that expansion team?
I got injured in the second game that year so missed out on most of it which was probably a good thing. It was a difficult situation for everyone. It really was a bunch of misfits on the field but we did come so close to winning at least one game that year.
What do you remember of playing with Doug Williams?
When Doug arrived, it was the turning point of the franchise. It put the offense into gear. He really was just such an exceptional player. If he had been on a better team, he would have ranked as one of the best-ever to play the position. But the rest of the offense was just good enough to get it done. Doug was the one who really made it happen.
And when he left the franchise in 1983, what do you remember of those times?
That was hard for him. He wasn't asking for that much money in terms of what other players were making and he should have been compensated for what he had done. In fact, we all should have been I guess. But the situation escalated and Doug ended up leaving Tampa and the team never recovered.
After 26 straight defeats, the first win finally came in New Orleans. Do you remember that game?
Definitely. We had come so close during that 1977 season to winning but just couldn't get the breaks to go our way. Finally the lid came off the pressure cooker and everybody was so relieved when we finally won. And then we went back home and won again the following week against the St.Louis Cardinals.
And then in 1979, it all went right, "From worst to first" they called it.
That was a magical season, the best year of my life. Suddenly we were 5-0 and on the cover of Sports Illustrated. We went into the playoffs and we really should have beaten the Rams in the Championship game. We just had no offense that day. The defense was just unbelievable that day but we just couldn't score. And if we had won, we would have played Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl which of course would have been amazing for me. But the whole year was just so special, it was just really fun going to work every day.
What was Ricky Bell like as a team-mate?
Ricky was pretty quiet when he arrived in Tampa and stayed that way throughout his time with us. He had so much publicity coming in and found himself behind an offensive line that didn't give him too much in front (apart from me of course!). Ricky just had nowhere to go when he ran the ball and people got on him unfairly. If he had been on a decent team like Tony Dorsett was in Dallas, he would have been great. But he was a really nice guy, a quiet guy who just did not deserve the negative publicity he got.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your former team-mates?
Yes I do. Jim Obradovich (TE 1978-83) is coming up to Colorado next week on his way to the USC game in Nebraska. He flies up in his own private plane to play some golf up here. I also keep in touch with Jim Leonard (C 1978-82) and Scott Hutchinson (DE 1981). Curtis Jordan (DB 1976-80) is another friend and I was kidding him about being ranked higher in BUCPOWER's Top 100 Bucs than he was! And of course Steve Wilson (C 1976-85). He was the one who told me about BUCPOWER.COM at the Alumni event last year in Tampa. I meant to make a note of your name and details but I'd had a few beers by then!
In the final game of the 1983 season, the Bucs had the worst kicker in the history of the NFL, Dave Warnke. Do you remember that at all?
Oh yes, the one where George Yarno, one of the offensive linemen kicked the final extra point. That was my final play as a professional athlete. All I remember is that George somehow wound up back there. Apparently one of the coaches went along the bench asking if anyone could kick.
You originally retired after the 1981 season. What made you come back again in 1982?
I had retired and did not even attend the 1982 training camp. But then Ray Snell and Gene Sanders, the two guys on the roster who could play left tackle got hurt in the season opener. I got a call from GM Phil Kreuger offering me my old job back with my original salary. And of course, I didn't have to go through camp again! I was activated on the Friday, played on the Sunday and on the Monday, the NFL Players Association went out on strike for eight weeks. I got my severance package, signing bonus and salary so probably cleared about $200K for that one week which was a lot of money in those days!
And then you finally retired before the 1984 season?
That's right. I had played 10 years in the league and my knee had started bothering me. I just knew it was over. At the back end of 1983, I wasn't playing anywhere near the level I once had. So the day before training camp opened in August 1984, I called Phil Kreuger and told him that was it. I was retiring.
And how is the knee and body holding up now?
Pretty well. Sometimes I look about 100 when I get out of bed and the first four or five steps can be a bit sore, but I'm doing all right. I get twinges every now and then but that's too be expected.
From being around in 1983, I guess you saw the beginning of the demise of the Buccaneers
I guess I did. Doug Williams leaving was the big moment. There was no-one else who could play at his level. And the guys from that 1979 team, the core group of the team, well they'd just all gotten older. It was time to rebuild but it was nothing to do with my decision to pack it in. That was my choice.
How did you feel in 2002 when the Bucs finally reached the Super Bowl?
Oh man, I was so proud. I got my old orange Buccaneer playing jersey out and wore it that day watching the game. I still have a lot of good friends in Tampa outside of football and I was so pleased for them. And for all the fans like you guys too. You all deserved it.
So what do you with yourself these days?
I'm a stock and currency trader on the futures market. I'm self-employed and also dabble in a bit of real estate too. I only got married when I was 50 (I'm 57 now) and I have two young daughters who have started to ask about the days when Daddy played in the NFL. Thanks to you, I will be able to show them DVDs of me actually playing which is going to be great.
And if I asked you to sum up your Buccaneer career in one word, what would it be?