The Longhorns remembered and honored legendary head coach Darrell K Royal on Saturday by lining up in the wishbone on their first offensive play.
Darrel Royal's son, Mack, and wife, Edith, were in attendance to say goodbye to the former Longhorn coach.
On Tuesday, those who revere the recently departed patriarch of virtually all things Texas Longhorns – he's credited with creating the logo, clarifying that it’s “burnt orange “ instead of just “orange”, and making sure the band traveled with the team for support to name just a few things – got to say their final goodbyes at a memorial service at the Erwin Center.
Royal was remembered with eulogies from Mack Brown, longtime friend and professional golfer Ben Crenshaw, and was honored with a rendition of "Healing Hands of Time" by longtime friend Willie Nelson.
Respect and admiration don’t do justice to the feelings that emanated from the crowd of roughly 1,500 in attendance that included former players like Earl Campbell, assistants, old foes like Barry Switzer and Frank Broyles, and Gov. Rick Perry.
Of the many sayings – “Royalisms” as true Longhorns call them - that have been fondly rehashed over the last week, one sticks out among the rest when talking about who exactly Darrell Royal was as a human being.
“It’s how you treat the people that can’t help you that counts.”
Royal, who was buried in a private state cemetery on Monday, believed a man’s character is judged on how he treats those that can’t help him versus those that can. And he treated them all the same.
The coach that led Texas to national championships in 1963, ’69 and ’70 never allowed himself to be bigger than those around him. Those he loved remembered him as humble and authentic despite turning the Texas football program into one of the nation’s elite.
Though Royal lived in the spotlight in Austin, he tried hard to not overshadow others. When Mack Brown invited him and his surviving wife Edith down onto the field after Texas’ 2005 national title win, Royal graciously declined; he wanted Brown to have his day in the sun to enjoy.
Earl Campbell, who didn't speak on Tuesday, was on hand to say farewell.
When Tommy Isbell (a player on the 1973 team) asked Royal why he never talked about his faith, Royal replied, “Tommy, have you ever heard me sing?” Tommy, as recounted by Marvin Bendele (1968), said he had not. Royal then said, “Well that doesn’t mean I don’t like music.”
Royal was an unassuming man, but he knew how to rally his troops to perform at the highest level on Saturdays. And he also knew how to take the boys he got from high school and turn them into men by the time they left UT.
“Earl (Campbell) said Coach saved his life,” Bendele recounted. “And the Royals were like a mom and dad to him.”
There were countless stories told about Royal helping turn his players into men – he won Johnnie Johnson over as a recruit by teaching him to greet someone with a firm handshake and making eye contact. Those stories prove that it wasn’t the trophies his teams won that made Royal such a great coach and person, it was the influence he had on his players and all the people lucky enough to spend time with him that puts him on a level so few people reach.
After Royal hung up his whistle and stepped down as athletic director, he still remained involved with the University of Texas. He was part of a committee Mack Brown met with in Atlanta in 1997 to see if the two parties were a fit while Brown was still the head man at North Carolina.
After the meeting with the committee Mack asked Royal what you have to do to be a successful coach at the University of Texas.
“It’s like a box of bee bees and we dropped the box and the bee bees are all over the place,” Mack recounted Royal saying. “It’d be your job as the head football coach at Texas to get the bee bees back in the box. If you can get those bee bees back in the box then it’s a real powerful place.”
Mack Brown gave one of the eulogies at Royal's memorial service.
Royal also told Mack to reach out to the lettermen and the high school football coaches around Texas to help get things going again at UT. He also told him one other important piece of advice.
“You need to win all them damn games too, boy.”
Royal told Mack to be ready for a lot of attention as the head coach at UT. He told him the position comes with having to sign a ton of autographs and take a lot of pictures, but that’s just part of the job. And in typical DKR fashion, he wanted Mack to know that the “atta boys” and pats on the back are great, but it’s not about the man.
“It’s about the position,” Mack recounted. “And the next guy that takes the position will be taking the same autographs and taking the same pictures.”
Before their meeting was finished, Mack asked Royal what was the best part about being the head coach at the University of Texas.
“25 million people care everyday about what you do,” he recounted.
And the worst?
“25 million people care about what you do.”
Texas historian Bill Little talked about how Royal did not like public speaking when he first arrived in Austin. Royal was given a poem, and told if he can learn to recite the poem, he could learn how to speak publicly.
The irony of the story is the poem Royal learned, The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole, almost perfectly described him as a person.
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
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