Darrell Royal, one of the true gentlemen in sports, passed away at age 88 in Austin.
Combining his folksy charm and innovative ideas, he built the University of Texas football program into a powerhouse, winning three national championships. He was the face of college football for Texans for many decades.
In his 23 years as head coach at Texas, Mississippi State and Washington, he never had a losing season.
In his 20 years at Texas, his Longhorn teams compiled a record of 167-47-5, the best mark during that period. He is the winningest coach in UT history; and the 100,000-seat stadium in Austin bears his name.
Royal won 11 Southwest Conference titles and led the Longhorns to 16 bowl appearances.
His Longhorns won undisputed national championships in 1963 and 1969, which included Cotton Bowl victories. Texas shared the national title in 1970.
Between 1968 and 1970 his teams reeled off 30 straight victories, which still ranks as the 10th longest streak in college football history.
His name has been synonymous with Longhorn football for more than 50 years.
Before coming to Texas, he grew up in poverty during the Great Depression in Oklahoma. He then became an All-American quarterback at the University of Oklahoma. After OU, he went into coaching and he proved to be one of the best, right alongside Bear Bryant and Woody Hayes.
Coach Royal meant so much to his players. He recruited hundreds of players throughout the years, including two of his best from East Texas — Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell, of Tyler, and Longview native James Street, the quarterback who led UT to the 1969 national title.
Campbell, who was in Tyler on Wednesday for the grand opening of Super 1 Foods on Gentry Parkway, was so overcome with emotion that he couldn't talk about his coach. He said he wasn't ready to address his passing.
The first time I met him, I was so nervous I could barely get the words out of my mouth, but he put me at ease in a matter of minutes.
He always had time for you. If you didn't get him right away, just leave a message with Miss Edith or at the golf course and coach Royal would get back with you.
Royal's wit and homespun humor made him a favorite with fans. Many of his sayings are still common today.
Although Royal said, “I've always felt that three things can happen to you whenever you throw the football, and two of them are bad,” some of his biggest victories were punctuated by big pass plays.
A couple of those included the 1969 “Big Shootout” win over Arkansas (fourth-and-three, 53 veer pass from Street to Randy Peschel for 44 yards that set up the winning TD) and the 1970 victory over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl (fourth-and-two, Street to Cotton Speyrer to the Irish 2 that set up the winning TD).
Some of his other colorful quotes include:
“There's an old saying, 'You dance with who brung ya.” — 1965, during a losing streak and frequently thereafter, on the importance of consistency;
“They are like a cockroach. It isn't what he eats or totes off but what he falls into and messes up.” — 1961, after the top-ranked Longhorns lost 6-0 to TCU, a 24-point underdog;
“He's as quick as a hiccup.” — 1957, on quarterback Walter Fondren;
“He could run like a small-town gossip.” —1963, on running back James Saxton;
“He doesn't have a lot of speed, but maybe Elizabeth Taylor can't sing.” — 1963, on backup running back Harold Phillipp.
Those sayings combined with his standout teams made him one of the most famous coaches in the nation.
Texas has lost a legend.