(AP) — Bruce DeHaven, a longtime special teams coach who helped the Buffalo Bills go to four consecutive Super Bowls, has died following a battle with prostate cancer. He was 68.
Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said DeHaven passed away Tuesday in Orchard Park, New York, with his family by his side.
DeHaven spent 29 years as a special teams coach in the NFL, most recently with the Carolina Panthers. He took over in Carolina in 2013 but was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May of 2015. He stepped away from his full-time role last summer but remained on as an adviser while receiving medical treatment.
DeHaven started his coaching career in the 1970s and also coached for San Francisco, Dallas and Seattle.
But he is best remembered for his two stints in Buffalo from 1987-1999 and 2010-2012.
DeHaven’s special teams coverage units in Buffalo were the best in the league for four consecutive season (1987-1990). He helped the Bills win six AFC East titles and appear in 21 playoff games.
Under DeHaven, Steve Tasker became a seven-time Pro Bowler and kicker Steve Christie set team records in 1998 with 140 points and 33 made field goals while becoming the franchise’s career leading scorer.
“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.”
DeHaven is survived by his wife Kathy and their two children, Tobin Scott and Annie Maude. Outside of his love of family, DeHaven’s passions were watching the St. Louis Cardinals, listening to music, reading and the Kansas farm where he was raised.
“Bruce DeHaven was not only one of the premier special teams coaches the history of the NFL, he was also a premier special person,” said former Bills coach Marv Levy. “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. Beyond that, he was a wonderful husband and father possessed of a happy and upbeat nature. What a privilege it was for me and for all the members of our coaching staff to have been colleagues and friends of Bruce DeHaven.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera tweeted: “#RIP Coach Bruce DeHaven. Our time together was short but I’m proud to say I coached on the same sideline as you.”