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Dan Reeves speaks at fundraiser dinner in Americus

Former President Jimmy Carter introduces Dan Reeves

Former Atlanta Falcons head coach and Americus native Dan Reeves speaks Tuesday night at the Boys & Girls Club of Americus-Sumter's 16th annual Steak and Stake Charity Fundraiser Dinner at Georgia Southwestern State's Storm Dome. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

Former Atlanta Falcons head coach and Americus native Dan Reeves speaks Tuesday night at the Boys & Girls Club of Americus-Sumter's 16th annual Steak and Stake Charity Fundraiser Dinner at Georgia Southwestern State's Storm Dome. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)

AMERICUS — Dan Reeves leaned on the podium briefly, then cracked a smile.

“I’ve never been introduced by a president before,” Reeves quipped after former President Jimmy Carter introduced him as the keynote speaker of the Boys & Girls Club of Americus-Sumter Tuesday night at the 16th annual Steak and Stake Charity Fundraiser Dinner at Georgia Southwestern State’s Storm Dome.

The Americus native, who played and coached professional football, spoke to the capacity crowd about the charity, which he said means a lot to him.

The former Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants and Denver Broncos head coach never attended the Boys & Girls Club, but he said he felt like he did while growing up in Americus. He recalled days of playing under former Americus coaches Jimmy Hightower and Jack Finklea.

“I had several cousins and every time we got together, we played everything and it was always competitive,” he said. “But growing up, our parents and many people in this community did a great job as disciplinarians, and made sure we did the right things.”

He praised the Boys & Girls Club of Americus-Sumter County Tuesday night and was one of many famous dignitaries in attendance, which included local civic leaders and athletes. That group also included Carter and legendary Georgia Southwestern men’s basketball coach Randolph Barksdale.

Reeves, who lives in Atlanta and still does some NFL consulting and radio commentating for the Falcons, drew a standing ovation when he was introduced by Carter. He remains popular in a community that has produced two NFL head coaches — himself and former Dallas Cowboys coach Chan Gailey.

He spoke fondly of many people in his hometown, including Bill Harris Sr., who along with his wife Ann were instrumental in helping organize the Americus-Sumter County Boys & Girls Club branch. Harris will be honored at a re-dedication/ribbon-cutting ceremony today at noon.

“Bill and Ann are great friends and they’ve been mentors to me,” Reeves said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of people to look up to.”

Reeves was one of the more popular speakers since the charity fundraiser began. Past speakers included former heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield, former Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley and current Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

Lori Gadson, Chief Professional Officer, said it was an honor to have Reeves.

“We’re grateful he took the time to be here with us,” she said. “We know he helped bring a lot of hometown folks from Americus to this event and we’re grateful. People who don’t normally use our services can come out and gain some awareness of what we do as a result of him being our speaker tonight.”

Barksdale talked about “there being something in the water” in Americus and Sumter County because of the number of famous people, including politicians and sports heroes, from Griffin Bell to All-Pro football athletes Ken Hill and Leonard Pope.

He also proclaimed the community as a “giving community.”