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CFB’s First WAG: Who Is Layla Kiffin?

The days before Lane Kiffin’s hiring at the University of Tennessee was announced, in November 2008, were filled with talk. About Kiffin’s age (at 33 he was the youngest active head coach in FBS). About his flame-out as head coach of the Oakland Raiders. About his famous dad, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who would join his son’s staff in Knoxville.

But the biggest revelation had nothing to do with football. It was Kiffin’s fetching wife, Layla.

Three days before Kiffin’s introductory Tennessee press conference, she already had a Facebook group: “Our Coach’s Wife is Hotter Than Your Coach’s Wife.” The Google search term “Lane Kiffin wife” became a popular one.

Layla Kiffin’s father, former Florida and NFL quarterback John Reaves, beheld all this from his home in Tampa. Was he horrified at the attention his daughter was getting for her looks? Hardly.

“She’s a great person. Beautiful, smart, tough and hardworking,” Reaves says. “And she he likes people.”

And with Layla’s husband at the reins of a once-disgraced USC program now primed to reclaim the national college football spotlight, Reaves and the rest of America will be seeing a lot more of her.

If this were a Hollywood script, the upstart young coach would meet the future “First WAG of College Football” by catching her eye at a speaking engagement. Or seeing her in the stands at a major football game amidst a crowd of thousands.

But instead, Lane Kiffin met his future wife through his dad.

Monte Kiffin, one of football’s foremost defensive coordinators, was coaching for the Bucs in the late 1990s when Layla Reaves — fresh out of the University of Florida as a ’97 graduate — was working for the Bucs in their special events department.

Lane was a graduate assistant at Colorado State in 1999 when he came to visit his dad. At Monte’s insistence, he met “this great blonde girl” (as John Reaves describes it) who worked for the team.

Lane fell hard. As in “asked Layla’s dad for her hand in marriage after three months of dating” hard.

“The receptionist at my office buzzed me and said Lane was here to see me,” said Reaves, who works in real estate. “I thought he was going to say that he was getting out of coaching and wanted a job. Instead he asked if he could marry my daughter.

“I called her to ask her, ‘Is he serious?’ (laughs) I wasn’t supposed to ruin the surprise. They bought an engagement ring that same day.”

As Kiffin has moved up the coaching ladder, Layla has taken her new career as a coach’s wife very seriously. In Knoxville she maintained healthy relationships with the other coaches’ wives, which she continues to do at USC. She’s active in the community. She appears to be a great cook. She can even recruit assistant coaches to come work for her husband. All while raising three young children.

She’s also become closer with her dad after his personal demons nearly ended their relationship.

A quarterback legend at Florida, John Reaves struggled with drug and alcohol problems in the NFL before finding sobriety in the 1980s. Then he was fired from his assistant coaching job at South Carolina in 1997. His wife asked for a divorce. He endured the deaths of his mother and stepfather.

“Some friends of mine asked me if I wanted to go to happy hour,” Reaves said. Thus kicked off a bender that lasted nearly a decade.

He bottomed out with gun and drug possession charges in 2008. A month before that, his drunken behavior in front of his in-laws and grandchildren at a family get-together resulted in his being excommunicated by both families.

Reaves says he is sober now and that he visited Lane and his daughter several times last year, when he got to spend time with their children. He says he loves the “movie set” feel of Southern California and praises Lane for his coaching ascent – and his daughter’s part in it.

“I’m so proud of her,” Reaves says. “I just enjoy being around my family more than anything these days.”

But mixing football and family can get tricky. Kiffin hired Layla’s brother, David Reaves, to become UT’s quarterback coach but didn’t even inform his brother-in-law when Kiffin decided to take the Trojans job. Reaves was left behind in Knoxville and eventually found himself out of a job (he most recently was the offensive coordinator for New Mexico last season).

Family matters aside, these days Layla Kiffin has a star that rivals that of her husband. She’s more than just the primary means of support for her single-minded, head coach husband. She’s holding her own. If USC goes on to a win a national title this season like many are predicting, you can expect to see lots more Layla Kiffin slideshows and Hollywood opportunities like “Dancing with the Stars” or a reality TV show.

Because in a town known for glamor and beauty, Layla Kiffin fits right in.

2:55 PM on 8/13/2012

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