Widow of Late Titans GM Floyd Reese Proud of Her Husband's Lasting Impact on Organization

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NASHVILLE – Sally Reese answered the phone on Monday and less than a minute into the conversation she was already quoting her late husband.

Sally Reese, the widow of late Titans general manager Floyd Reese, calls them Floyd-isms.

"Floyd used to always say: The only thing that matters is whether there's a checkmark under the 'W' column," said Sally, referring to the Titans' most recent win over the Saints. "That's all that matters, getting the W."

Sally Reese, of course, knows all the Floyd-isms.

And here's why: Sally and Floyd Reese first met back in 1953, when they were in kindergarten in Brentwood, California, which is located about 50 miles from San Francisco.

"He road the bus," Sally recalled. "I was a walker."

They were childhood friends, but then separated by Sally's move from California to Camden, Tennessee. Sally returned to California for the summers, and she eventually moved back. They dated for a while their sophomore year in high school, broke up, and later rekindled their relationship while in college, when Floyd came home from UCLA one summer.

They were married on April 3, 1971, and their life revolved around football from that day forward, until Floyd Reese passed away over 50 years later, on August 21, 2021.

"Floyd loved football," Sally Reese said. "I don't care if it was third-graders in Canada playing football, Floyd always watched anything that had to do with football. He lived it, he breathed it. He just loved it. … He'd watch football, and I would watch the Housewives of New York or something. But we made it work."

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Yes, Sally Reese loved her husband, so she made it work. They both made it work.

From coaching in high school to the college ranks to eventually the NFL, where he began as a strength and conditioning coach with the Detroit Lions in 1975, Reese paid his dues on his way to success, and that eventually led him from San Francisco to Minnesota to Houston to Tennessee, where he'd become the architect of one of the most successful runs in franchise history as the team's general manager.

On Monday, Sally Reese laughed, and she also fought back tears on several occasions, while talking about her husband's passion for the game, and his love for the Titans.

It's a special week for the Reese family.

On Sunday, during halftime of the team's game at Nissan Stadium against the Texans, Reese and former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher will be inducted into the franchise's Ring of Honor during a special ceremony.

Reese, who had a 21-year run (1986-2006) with the Oilers/Titans as a coach and executive, is the winningest general manager in franchise history. His vision helped pave the way for a memorable run of success for the Titans once the team moved from Houston to Tennessee.

"He loved the Titans and the organization, and he wanted them to win," Sally said. "Even though he didn't leave (on his own terms), he still loved the Titans. He was always pulling for them, no matter what. That's just Floyd."

Sally Reese will be at Nissan Stadium on Sunday when her husband is recognized. The couple's two sons – Sean and Jeremy – will be there, too, along with their grandchildren, and family and friends.

There will be reminders of Reese, who famously called just about everyone "Bo", everywhere.

"We have our jerseys made," Sally said. "One of our sons has 'Hey Bo', on the back of his jersey.' My oldest grandson has Reese III, because he is Floyd Reese the third. Everybody has jerseys with the No.1 on them -- Floyd won 111 games, so, it will be the three 1s."

Yes, it will be an emotional day for all, but one that will also cause Sally to reflect at the journey the two shared together, which revolved around his love for the game, his family, and everyone he met along the way.

Reese also introduced some big names to the NFL, and to Nashville.

As a talent evaluator, Reese was responsible for the franchise drafting QB Steve McNair, RB Eddie George, TE Frank Wycheck, DE Jevon Kearse, WR Derrick Mason, LB Keith Bulluck, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DL, C Kevin Mawae, P Craig Hentrich, DT Albert Haynesworth and QB Vince Young, among others. That grouping of players would collect 27 Pro Bowl honors, three Rookies of the Year (George/Kearse/Young) and one AP Co-MVP (McNair in 2003) for the club. Reese originally joined the club in 1986 as a linebacker coach for the Oilers and following four seasons in that role, he was named Assistant General Manager (1990-93) under Mike Holovak.

Sally Reese said her husband was proud of that, even if he didn't always show it.

"I'll always remember Floyd as a kind, humble man," said Sally, her voice cracking. "I always told him: You don't sell yourself enough.' But he didn't want the credit. And he always treated people so well."

In Reese's tenure with the organization, the team advanced to the playoffs 11 times. As General Manager (1994-2006), he tallied 111 wins (106 regular season/5 postseason) and the Titans advanced to two AFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl (XXXIV).

Sally Reese was there every step of the way.

She was also there when he agonized over the hard times, and the tough losses.

"I bet you he watched the end of the Super Bowl, when Kevin Dyson got tackled at the one-yard line, 40 times," Sally Reese recalled. "Same play, over and over again, he'd sit there picking his sideburn, one hand under his elbow, and the other one picking his sideburn – that's what he did when he was nervous.

"I said, 'Honey, I don't care how many times you watch that, it's not going to change (the result). He looked at me, and the look on his face, it wasn't a happy one. Floyd hated losing. I'm not kidding, he would talk in his sleep over it."

During a 45-minute interview on Monday, Sally Reese also talked about all the friendships Floyd made over the years, and all the good times he had around the game.

Floyd and Sally Reese had fun, too.

They raised two boys, and they took trips. There was even this time Floyd hit the jackpot when they were vacationing in Turks and Caicos.

While Sally was playing poker, Floyd went and played the slots.

"And he hit a slot machine that had never been hit before, and it rolled for 1 ½ hours," Sally recalled, laughing hard. "It paid $10,000."

Sally Reese said the casino manager took her husband into a back room and gave him $5,000 in $100 bills, and $5,000 more in $50s, $20s, $10s and $5s. Floyd told Sally to wait in the car while he dealt with the manager.

"They put all this money in a garbage bag, and when he came out he looked like Santa coming out of the casino," Sally recalled, laughing again. "Floyd jumped in the car, and we drove off. He kept his head on a swivel, thinking someone was going to come after him"

Sally Reese told one funny story after another about her husband of over 50 years, and you got the sense she could have gone on for days.

But she also stopped several times to collect herself, and fight back tears, because the fact he's no longer here is still hard.

And, because more than anything, Sally wishes her husband could be on the field this Sunday for himself, to get the recognition he deserves.

Sally Reese kept her husband's battle with cancer quiet in the final months of his life, because he wanted it that way. Floyd Reese ended up losing 100 pounds during his cancer fight, while the family prayed. He didn't want to see visitors at the family's home. In fact, the day he got his cancer diagnosis, he resigned from his position as a radio talk show host at 102.5 The Game, and he kept to himself.

"I knew this was coming," Sally Reese said in a quieter, sadder moment. "When they told him fourth stage last November, we just prayed for a miracle. And Floyd, being the way he was, the day he heard the news he didn't want to talk to people because he was such a private person. I think I'd be yelling for everybody to pray for me, but that was not Floyd's style. He was really private."

When the Titans announced Reese would be added to the Ring of Honor back in June, Sally Reese said her husband was determined to make it.

Floyd Reese won't be there in body on Sunday at Nissan Stadium, but he'll be there in spirit.

Sally Reese knows he'll be looking down, with a smile.

She'll probably laugh some, and cry some.

"He'd lost 100 pounds, but he'd planned on going," Sally said of her late husband, who was 73. "It would have been a shock to everybody, because no one knew (he had cancer). Unfortunately, he didn't make it.

"But we are so thrilled that he's being recognized, and we are so proud for him, and of him. You have no idea how proud we all are of him. And we are thrilled that he's getting acknowledged. He earned it."

Reese, who had a 21-year run (1986-2006) with the Oilers/Titans as a coach and executive, is the winningest general manager in franchise history. His vision helped pave the way for a memorable run of success for the Titans once the team moved from Houston to Tennessee.

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