South Bend, Indiana – July 21, 2012
Reporters always ask him about that play versus Houston, the first time he ever touched the football in college, the 70-yard bomb that began the Gator’s dismantling of a Goliath on a Saturday afternoon. Ask any old Gator fan who was there and they will tell you that it was a beautiful play and the phrase “Reaves to Alvarez” filled the air for years afterwards. It was the first play of a career that set almost every Florida and Southeastern Conference receiving record, earning my dad the nickname “The Cuban Comet.”
They asked him about it again in South Bend today.
My dad looked out over the crowd and pointed to three of his teammates who were sitting at a table with me. They came from across the country to be there with him, just like they had been there with him on that day against Houston in 1969. The four of them had spent the weekend laughing and sharing stories. There was so much love between them that it felt like they could have laughed forever if the weekend hadn’t ended.
Seeing them laugh and smile, I knew everything my dad had ever told me about that play and that season was right. He always told me not to forget that big offensive tackle Mac Steen held the line long enough for John Reaves to throw the ball. He always said that no one would remember that catch if Tom Abdelnour, Alan Cole, and the rest of the defense hadn’t fought every down to contain a Houston offense that scored 100 points against Tulsa the year earlier.
I’m proud of my dad, I always have been, but not because he could run and catch, not because he broke records and won games. I’m proud because to him it was never “Reaves to Alvarez.”
Even forty years later in South Bend, Indiana, when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.