The NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards, Florida's John Reaves came to the pros with high expectations placed upon him.  Drafted in 1972 by the Philadelphia Eagles, he was seen as the team's proverbial "quarterback of the future."  That future never came, however, as Reaves' career in the NFL saw him play only three seasons with the Eagles, then another four with Cincinnati, all in a limited role and never resulting in a regular starting job let alone the kind of success he had enjoyed in college.  Leaving the Bengals after the 1978 season he returned to the NFL in 1981 to join the Houston Oilers, but lasted only five games.  At 31, Reaves thought his pro football career was over.

Enter the USFL and a local franchise, the Tampa Bay Bandits.  At 33, Reaves signed with the team to give the game one more try.  Unlike his NFL experience however, Reaves became a starter - and then a star - working well within Steve Spurrier's "Banditball" offense.  Throwing for 1,726 yards in 1983 while splitting time behind center with Jimmy Jordan, "the old man" had found a home.  In 1984 Jordan was relegated to a back-up role, leaving Reaves to have the best year of his career.  Leading the Bandits to a 14-4-0 record and the USFL playoffs, Reaves completed 313 passes for 4,092 yards and 28 touchdowns - each number greater than that he put up during his entire NFL career.

Proving that '84 wasn't a fluke, in 1985 Reaves did it again, throwing for 4,193 yards and completing 314 passes for 25 touchdowns, and once again leading the Bandits to the playoffs.  Florida football fans had finally seen their star quarterback shine once again.  The USFL's demise saw Reaves' fade back into obscurity, though in 1987 he rejoined the NFL to play two games for the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers before giving up football once and for all.

Today Reaves is the owner of John Reaves Real Estate in Tampa, having previously pursued a career in coaching.  Oddly enough, Reaves' USFL career technically didn't end with the Bandits - after the 1985 season he was released by the team following a contract dispute, and the Orlando Renegades picked up his USFL rights.  Had the USFL played in the fall of 1986, Reaves likely would have been the starting quarterback in Orlando, rather than Tampa.


Tampa Bay Bandits


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