“How Shall The Young Secure Their Hearts?”: Learning the Hard Way

By Titus Edwards

In 1969, John Reaves was beginning to do the kind of things that they write folklore about. As a sophomore at the University of Florida, he threw five touchdown passes in his college debut. In 1972 he was the No. I draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles. But within a couple of years he was, in his own words, “strung out on dope. Eventually I was separated from my wife, estranged from my children, an alcoholic, $100,000 in debt, wrecking cars, causing scenes in restaurants and hiding from the police. And to think I figured if I made it to the NFL, I’d live happily ever after.”

John Reaves was one of the University of Florida’s biggest heroes. He set and still holds many Gator and NCAA passing records. Unfortunately, he was a flop in the NFL. The Gators finished 9-1-1 in his sophomore year. They slumped to 7-4 his junior year and collapsed to 4-7 his senior year. The reason–Reaves began big league drinking and pot smoking. His first joint was given to him by a former Florida player as they drove around Gainesville. Reaves said of the incident, “I didn’t like it when I did it. I knew it was wrong, and I felt extremely guilty. But I did it anyway. It was just plain dumb. My whole life started going downhill–my grades, my ability as an athlete, my relationships with my fellow students and teammates. I could see that was the cause. But I couldn’t quit.”

In the NFL, he continued his drinking and got heavier into all kinds of drugs. His wife, Patti, was with him, “slugging it out with me”–sharing pills and pot. His playing ability became so poor, he was benched and finally traded to Cincinnati, where he sat on the bench. He was cut by the Bengals and picked up by the Vikings, where he sat on the bench and watched Tommy Kramer play. He got heavily into cocaine. “It got to a point where I was literally saturated with drugs and alcohol. I was becoming violent. My nose was running; my liver was swollen; my skin and complexion looked waxy. My friends were abandoning me, my wife couldn’t stand me anymore. My habit was more important to me than my wife and family . . . .”

He left his family, almost killed himself because of drunken driving, and was ordered to be picked up by a judge for psychiatric evaluation. He fled in terror. “While I was there (in hiding), I took a long look at the rotten mess I’d made out of my life and how I’d destroyed everything through the lust of my flesh. I was at the end of myself. I had nothing, zero.”

Well, the story has a happy ending. John Reaves, he says, found the Lord at this time and changed his life. He quit the drinking and drugs, reconciled with his family, and is now playing football for the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL. He spends much time in Bible study and teaching others.

Young people, you don’t have to learn everything the hard way! Learn from John Reaves’ self-admitted mistakes. He knew when he first started into drugs what was happening, but he didn’t quit. Be smarter than he was. Be more controlled. Recognize the vanity and deception of sin before you hit rock bottom. Turn to the Lord now and live righteously before sin ruins your life!

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). “For he that will love life, and see good days . . . Let him eschew evil, and do good (1 Pet. 3:10-11).

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 18, p. 562
September 20, 1984