Bruce DeHaven, who spent the final four years of his 46-year coaching career in Carolina, passed away Tuesday night after a 19-month battle with prostate cancer.
On Wednesday, the Panthers began their team meeting with a prayer and later shared memories of one of the best special teams coaches in NFL history.
Long Snapper J.J. Jansen
I remember when he told us of his diagnosis, we were out on OTAs, on that turf field, and he pulls us together and goes, ‘I just want to let you know that I’m sick. I’m going back to Buffalo. I’m going to be OK.’ And then he looked Brad (Nortman) right in the eye and said, ‘OK, now let’s go punt.’ He didn’t want to talk about that as much as he wanted to focus on his players and football. … The breadth of who he is is music and trains and coaching and my goodness he loves Kansas. He didn’t talk a lot of football. For as much football as he knows, we didn’t talk a lot of football. We talked about life and everything else.
Kicker Graham Gano
He loved trains. When he was a kid, he jumped on a train and was just wanting to see where it would go and it took him 70 miles out of the way. That was a different day and time. I think he said they had to hitchhike back into town, but quite an eventful day. He was full of stories like that. He was one of those guys that would say, ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.’ And every single time, we’d look at each other and be like, ‘We’ve heard it, but we want to hear it again.’ … Today we just had so many good laughs just thinking all the good memories we had with him. He touched a lot of people’s lives in a positive way, and I think you can see that throughout social media.
Receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
Bruce always took care of me. You’d thought that I was his first grandson, something like that. He had the utmost respect for me, for the style that I played, respecting me as a man and as a player, taught me a lot on and off the field. That’s all you can ask for when you’re in this business. My condolences go out to him and his family. I just hope they get through this rough time. As a Panther family, we miss him and we love him.
Fullback Mike Tolbert
He coined the phrase ‘Rolling Ball of Butcher Knives’ as one of the nicknames he gave me. His spirit, his heart was so big. I remember times where we would just sit, right here at this locker, and we would talk about cooking on the green egg. He’d ask if I’d ever cook steak on the green egg. Have I ever cooked salmon on the Green Egg? Different stories like that. It was more family with him than it was football. Obviously, being in the game for 44 years he knew his football, but being the guy that he was, it’s something we’re definitely going to miss around here.
Former Linebacker, Current Special Teams Assistant Chase Blackburn
He’d text us every week. We’d go through his role even when he was going through chemo. He’d love the fact that we’d set him up at the computer and we’d be able to send him all of our cut-ups and everything that we had. He wanted to be involved as long as he could. He’d send us little tidbits every single week about things that we could improve or things that he saw in the opponent, which was fantastic. … He wanted to be involved, so he wanted to make sure he was getting us information. He’s like, ‘You can throw it away, I don’t care, just let me do it.’ But that was Bruce. It was fantastic because he was alway prepared. Heck of a person, heck of a coach. Can’t ask for a better mentor than the guy that I had.
Safety Colin Jones
He really helped me become the special teams player I am. He’s a big reason why I’m still here. … He was very well rounded and he wasn’t afraid of making an example out of you. But at the same time, he’d be the first person to pat you on the back when you made a good play. Anytime you have a coach like that I feel like it’s very easy to come from somebody like that because you want to represent them well.
Defensive End Mario Addison
Bruce was an all-around good guy. He was tough on you, hard on you for a reason. When he expects so much out of you, he’s going to make it known. He doesn’t care who you are. Ted Ginn, Mario Addison, Graham Gano. If he’s calling you out, it means he’s calling you out for a reason — to make you play better. That was one thing that I respected about him. He didn’t discriminate at all. He was a good coach. He will give you his all. He expected that from you too.
Running Back Fozzy Whittaker
The biggest thing that I loved about Bruce was the amount of passion that he showed and the way that he loved coaching and being out on the field with us. His passion was unmatched, especially when a play was made. Even in practice when everything looked right, he would celebrate with us, he would be in the moment. Some of the things that taught me as a man and as a football player are something I’m going to be able to keep with me for the rest of my life and my football career.
Coach Ron Rivera
He’s most certainly going to be missed. Obviously, he’s been missed anyways cause he hasn’t been around. But you think about the type of person that he is, the type of coach. For me, he was always that guy that could really, truly tell me what was on his mind. Probably because he was a veteran coach, but he did because he cared and that was one of his special, unique qualities about Bruce. He had great timing as to when to say something.
Quarterback Cam Newton
I would always say to him, ‘Coach Bruce, I see at the end of each year coaches either get raises or they either stay the same. I know we’re in the production business with having good statistics and stuff. If you ever want a raise, man, put me back there at kick return/punt return.’ He’d always smile at me and say, ‘Cam, nah, not this game. Not this game.’ … He had the whole special teams unit singing songs, singing riddles and nobody did it like Bruce.