Sept. 6, 1948 – Dec. 27, 2016
Bruce DeHaven, special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills teams that appeared in four straight Super Bowls, died Tuesday in his Orchard Park home after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 68.
Born in Great Bend, Kan., he attended Southwestern College, where he was leading scorer on the basketball team, was a member of the track and field team, and was inducted into the college’s athletic and business halls of fame. He was a founding member of Beta Rho Mu fraternity.
Mr. DeHaven was a high school coach before becoming defensive back and offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator at the University of Kansas from 1979 to 1981. He was offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for New Mexico State University in 1982, then joined the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League in 1983 as special teams coach.
He went on to coach special teams at two other USFL franchises, the Pittsburgh Maulers in 1984 and the Orlando Renegades in 1985, before he joined Bills Coach Marv Levy’s staff in 1987. He spent 13 seasons with the team.
His kickoff coverage teams led the NFL from 1987 to 1990 and his punt coverage unit led the league in 1996 by setting a record for fewest yards allowed. Among the players who flourished under his guidance were Steve Tasker, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and one of the league’s leading hitters, and kicker Steve Christie, who set team scoring records in 1998.
His final game with the Bills was the “Music City Miracle” loss to the Tennessee Titans on a trick play in the 1999 NFL Wild Card Game.
He went on to serve as special teams coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2000 to 2002 and the Dallas Cowboys under Coach Bill Parcells from 2003 to 2006. After serving as special teams coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks from 2007 to 2009, he returned to the Bills under Coach Chan Gailey from 2009 to 2012, then spent the past four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, most recently as an adviser while receiving cancer treatments.
In Dallas, his punter, Mat McBriar, led the NFL in 2006. In Carolina, another punter, Brad Norman, set team records.
Regarded as one of the league’s best special teams coaches, his honors included a nomination for the George Halas Award, presented annually by the Professional Football Writers of America to an NFL player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed.
Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Kathy; a son, Tobin Scott; and a daughter, AnnieMaude.
Services will be private.