Legendary NFL Special Teams coach Bruce DeHaven passed away Tuesday evening after a courageous battle against cancer.
DeHaven coached special teams in the National Football League for three decades with the Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and most recently, the Carolina Panthers.
His stint with the Bills was, by far, the longest. DeHaven coached in Buffalo 13 seasons, including all four of the Super Bowl years.
He as fired after the Music City Miracle in January of 2000.
DeHaven’s special teams units in Buffalo were named best in the league by the Dallas Morning News in 1996, generally accepted as the top opinion on special teams ratings.
The Bills kickoff coverage unit tops in the NFL for four consecutive seasons (1987-90) under DeHaven.
He helped make Steve Tasker a seven-time Pro Bowler.
Kicker Steve Christie set team records in 1998 with 140 points and 33 made field goals while becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
He continued the success in Dallas. Cowboys punter Mat McBriar ranked first in the NFL with a 48.2-yard gross average in 2006 and the Cowboys’ kickoff coverage unit was best in the league in 2004 by holding opponents to a 17.5 yards per return average.
DeHaven closed his NFL career as a part of Carolina’s run to a Super Bowl last season.
To his fellow coaches and players, all those accomplishments pale in comparison to DeHaven the person.
“I was a better football player because Bruce DeHaven was my coach, but I was a better man because Bruce DeHaven was my friend,” Tasker said. “I will miss him very, very much.”
“His work ethic, his love for and his dedication to the game, his caring about those players from whom he was able to bring forth their maximum talents and who revere him are all signature features which distinguished him,” said former Bills head coach Marv Levy. “Beyond that, he was a wonderful husband and father possessed of a happy and upbeat nature.”
I think he’s one of the best special teams coaches in the league, which is why when the Bills let him go he signed quickly with other clubs. He was just that good,” Christie said. “He really looked after us and he pushed us like any coach would and for me personally, if I got into a rut or something, he was really good at helping us get out of it. He was just a great guy to play for.”
DeHaven’s greatest source of pride centered around his wife Kathy and two children, Tobin Scott and AnnieMaude.
He was also a passionate St. Louis Cardinals fan. He loved music, reading and the Kansas farm where he was raised.
Bruce DeHaven was 68 years old.