Remembering Darrell K Royal
Posted by Travis Stewart on 7 November 2012 | 0 comments
I've never been one for the short sleeves-and-tie look.
Don't get me wrong — it's a classic look, and one our dads and grandads were rocking to church, work, parties and the like for decades. It's just not for me. I can't remember a time that I've seen it in person and thought, "Hey, now there's a snappy style."
Save one day. It was the first time I held the 1963 edition of Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine, when I started working here years ago. I hadn't seen that edition before, much less held and touched it, but its impact was profound. On the cover, looking every bit the hero, was Texas coach Darrell K Royal, sporting the sleeves-and-tie look I'd always rolled my eyes over.
But Royal, a rising superstar in state lore, made it look professional. It just looked right. He looked smart, and in charge, and commanding, and hopeful. Now there's a guy I'd run through a wall for, I thought to myself. The player posed with him, Scott Appleton, pretty much did, and the Longhorns went on to win their first-ever unanimous national championship.
Incredibly, the best was still yet to come. Royal won two more national championships — 1969 and 1970 — and managed the program until he retired in 1976. Not everything was perfect — nostalgia is a powerful influence in football — but the Longhorns never had a losing season in his 20 years with the program, and Royal was perennially mentioned amongst the states most talented and most respected coaches.
And he'll be remembered that way forever, as the Lone Star great died this morning at the age of 88. This was not unexpected, nor was it a case of a man gone too soon. But I still mourn the loss, and I know Dave Campbell, a good friend of Royal's, does as well. Royal leaves behind his wife, Edith, who needs our thoughts and prayers. But he also leaves behind a treasure trove of magnificent memories, ones that will be forever ingrained in state history.
But the one that has stayed with me the longest, and the one that will continue to amaze me until the day I die, was his retirement, nearly fourty years ago. Texas had beaten Arkansas, 29-12, on December 4th, and the game had gone a little late. But Royal, who had announced his retirement long before, stayed with the media for hours afterwards, answering every manner of question.
At the end of the press conference, when the end of his career was official, media row gave him a standing ovation.
It wasn't just for the wins. It probably didn't have anything to do with the wins at all, actually. It was more about the way he treated people, and the way he raised young men, and in appreciation of the hard life he lived growing up in rural Oklahoma, and of his unique approach to the game, and of his legendary motivational skills, and of the once-in-a-lifetime career he was leaving behind.
That display of unabashed respect and affection was about a lot of things, but it wasn't about the wins.
And that's the way we should all remember him, too.
God speed, coach.