"He has good speed," says Allen, "not great, but good. But he doesn't have a quick start. We worked on that with him for a long time, but that's something you're born with, and we couldn't teach it to Dan. Guys like Jim Taylor, Jim Grabowski, they have quick starts. They hit the hole so fast the linebacker can't react before they're gone, but not Dan. He's more of a picker. He picks his way until he can turn upfield, then he's real good. He has good top speed and good moves."
Reeves, probably more than anyone else, recognizes his shortcomings, but he feels that his experience as a quarterback in college has helped him as a runner in pro football. "I learn all the assignments on every play," he says, "so I know what everyone is going to do. It helps me set up blocks, and I think that is my major asset as a runner. I can use a head fake to freeze a linebacker or defensive back and give the blocker a chance to take him. It helps."
Landry agrees with Reeves. "He reminds me of Doak Walker," he says. "He has that same ability to figure out what he'll have to be doing 30 yards downfield. Of course, he's bigger and stronger than Doak. He's a little like Paul Hornung, but he doesn't have Hornung's power."
The Cowboys use Reeves the way the Packers used Hornung, particularly on the halfback option play that Hornung worked so well. Hornung, too, was a quarterback in college, an All-America at that, but he probably was not as accurate a passer as Reeves, who, Landry says, is as good as anyone at getting the ball to the precise spot.
"He's a sprint-out passer, and I wouldn't recommend his style for everyone," Landry says, "but he gets the ball there. We don't throw a lot of halfback passes because they don't fit in with our offense, but we call one maybe every other game, just to give the other defense something to think about. We tried one a couple of weeks ago and the receiver was bracketed. An ordinary halfback, if he had tried to throw into that kind of coverage, would probably have had an interception. Dan threw the ball just where the receiver had a chance to catch it, but neither of the defenders could reach it. It was incomplete, but it was a good throw and the best he could do under the circumstances."
Reeves's many talents help him now where before they were a handicap. Professional football is so thoroughly a game of specialists these days that the player who can pass, run and kick well, but who cannot do any one of these things superbly, has less of a chance to make a pro club than a Hungarian soccer player who can place-kick 40-yard field goals.
"It's different in high school and college," Reeves says. "You can get by if you can do a lot of things. It even helps. But when I came up to the Cowboys and saw passers like Meredith and Morton and Rhome I knew I wasn't going to beat out one of them. They had Renfro and Perkins for running backs and there wasn't any place for me there. They had great receivers and fine defensive backs, so things looked pretty bad for me for a while. I hadn't caught any passes in college, and running from a halfback set was completely strange for me since I would drop back and run or roll out as a T quarterback. The blocking assignments were different, too. I didn't block as a T quarterback unless I was leading the way on an option."
Reeves is stubborn, however, and he is not afraid to work. He was raised on his father's 275-acre farm outside of Americus, and long, hard hours have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. "We used to get up about five o'clock in the morning," he said. "My dad raises hogs and cattle, and crops like corn, cotton and peanuts. I fed the hogs and cows, baled hay and plowed. Rush times, I'd start plowing at daybreak and stay out until 11 o'clock at night, using headlights on the tractor. Growing up on a farm is great for children. They learn a lot of responsibility, and they don't have any slack time to get in trouble. When I get through as a player I'd like to coach and own a farm, too, to raise my own kids on."
Reeves learned quickly with the Cowboys, though nothing came easily to him. "Training camp was nerve-wracking," he said. "I got beat up a lot in college playing quarterback, but the college linemen weren't that big. Or if they were big, they weren't that fast. I was shocked at the size and speed of the linemen in the pros. Six-five, 260 and they could run and hit a ton. They made me hustle.
"I found out my big problem as a halfback was getting comfortable in my stance. I had to learn to line up with my feet even so I wouldn't tip the play, and I had to force myself not to look at the ball when the quarterback gave it to me on a hand-off. You have to look for the hole. On some of our plays you have to explode to get to the hole, others you have to stay under control. You can see I'm still learning about this. And I'm still working on my blocking."