When the Fates Align

Ben Reaves Jr. once starred on the gridiron at Newton High School but always believed he was meant to coach. Now at the controls of the powerhouse Milton program, the 38-year-old father of two has established himself as one of the bright young minds in the sport.

by Brian Knapp

Those who believe in destiny could certainly point at Ben Reaves Jr. as potential evidence. As the son of a longtime coach, he was not introduced to football so much as he was born into it. He grew up to become a standout wide receiver at Newton High School—where he developed under his father, Ben Reaves Sr., before graduating in 2004—and moved on to the University of Georgia as a preferred walk-on before concussions ended his playing career in 2005. 

It was not the exit he foresaw, but he picked up the headset almost as soon as he put away the pads. The transition could not have been more natural.

“From the time I was old enough to walk, I started going to football practices with my dad,” Reaves Jr. said. “Outside of my four years at UGA, the birth of my two sons and one bad case of the flu, I don’t think I’ve ever missed a high school football practice, so for me, there’s never been a question or thought of doing anything else. Coaching is not just what I grew up knowing, but it’s what I’ve always loved and deep down always felt it was what I was destined to do.” 

Reaves Jr. spent one season as a student assistant at Georgia, then cut his teeth as part of high school staffs at Collins Hill in Suwanee, Berrien County in Nashville and Bay Shore in Bradenton, Florida. In time, he emerged as one of the brightest young minds in the game. Reaves Jr. in 2017 accepted an offer to become the offensive coordinator at Milton High School, where head coach Adam Clack was tasked with waking a sleeping giant. From 1950 to 2016, the Eagles won just three region titles and three playoff games. In five years under Clack, Milton captured four region championships and its first state title in 2018. When he departed his post in 2022, Reaves Jr. was tabbed as his successor. The married 38-year-old father of two now finds himself behind the wheel at one of the most successful and prestigious football programs in the state. It has proven to be an ideal fit for both parties.

“We made memories this season that you cannot put a price tag on and memories I’ll cherish for as long as I live.”

Ben Reaves Jr.

“The words community and family are interchangeable at Milton,” Reaves Jr. said. “The bonds and the closeness of everyone is undeniable. If you are an Eagle, you always feel loved, welcomed and at home. I like to think our football program feels the same way, but that love and connection starts with the community and naturally trickles into our locker rooms.”

Reaves Jr. has built on what Clack started by following a simple but effective approach.

“Coach to your teams strengths, design schemes to your players strengths, and design and make calls that give your best athletes the most opportunities to take over a game,” he said. “I want to be multiple on offense, I want to be sound but fearless on defense and I want to use special teams as a weapon to change the game and steal points and possessions. After each season, you wipe every board clean, re-evaluate everything and design a new philosophy and scheme for the next year’s team, because they’re all different and no two teams will ever be the same.”

Virtually everything has gone according to plan thus far. The Eagles have compiled a 23–6 record under Reaves Jr. while claiming back-to-back Region 6-AAAAAAA championships. He led Milton to its second state title in December. The Eagles won their final 10 games, finished the season 13–2 and took down undefeated Walton 31–21 in the Class AAAAAAA state final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. When Reaves Jr. approached the temporary stage to accept the state championship trophy, memories and emotions overwhelmed him. It was the culmination of years of hard work, success and failure, trial and error. 

“Complete satisfaction, not just for myself but for the entire program, school and community,” Reaves Jr. said. “Everyone poured everything they had into our season, and to see everyone get rewarded was a more than satisfying feeling. I also felt a ton of relief. I knew we had what it took to win, and I was very vocal about that all season, so to see it happen and play out the way it did definitely brought me relief that what I had been saying and preaching all year wasn’t just a dream but a reality and a fact.” 

As Reaves Jr. celebrated the crowning achievement of his own coaching career, thoughts turned back to his father—the man who set him on his current path all those years ago.

“He’s been the biggest influence, by far the most supportive influence and definitely the original influence that hooked me into the profession,” he said. “I probably wouldn’t be a coach if he wasn’t a coach. If he were a carpenter, I’d probably be a carpenter right now. That’s how much he’s meant to me and how much he’s always influenced who I am. To see how his players—and even coaches—always loved him, looked up to him, trusted his every move and always came back to see him or check in … those are all things I’ve always hoped to be as a coach and reasons why much of what I do and who I am even today is modeled after him.”

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Reaves Jr. was also humbled by the reality that the man he admires most was a breath away from not being there to witness it all. An assistant football coach and physical education teacher at Social Circle High School, Reaves Sr. suffered a near-fatal brain bleed in June. It required a 28-day stay in the neuro intensive care unit, along with countless tests and follow-up procedures. Outside of a few minor setbacks, he appears to be on the road to recovery from a frightening episode that threatened to claim his life. Reaves Jr. credits his assistants—including Caleb Reaves, his younger brother and wide receivers coach—with helping him keep the Milton ship afloat.

“I have a great coaching staff and support system around me that I was able to rely on at every turn,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without them. Plus, it just gave me more of a reason to honor him and make him proud on the platform he first showed to me.” 

(L TO R) Caleb reaves and ben reaves jr.

With the benefit of hindsight, Reaves Jr. carries a different perspective on the situation. 

“In all honestly, I view it somewhat as a blessing in disguise,” he said. “Since he was no longer able to coach with the Social Circle football team, the only game of mine he missed was when we traveled down to Miami. With the other 14, he got to tell my brother and I good luck before every game, chat with us at the end and chase his four grandchildren around the field. He was there when the clock hit zero and Caleb and I both became state champions on the same team. We made memories this season that you cannot put a price tag on and memories I’ll cherish for as long as I live.” 


Click here to read more stories by Brian Knapp.

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1 comment

  1. Coach Reaves comes from a family of 3 Captain’s of National Championship teams
    in football and multiple Ga. State Champions. Both men and women in our family have fought between many lines, but this young man is the best of us all.

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