Oklahoma Boy, Texas Legend: Our All-Time Favorite ‘Royalisms’

Darrell Royal is one of the most-quoted coaches in the history of sports; his words show appreciation for a uniquely phrased sentiment, and he usually chose the shortest—and most colorful—route to making his point. Here’s a selection of those “Royalisms,” excerpted from DKR: The Royal Scrapbook.


“If you feel like celebrating, wait until the other ten get there and celebrate together. You didn’t do it by yourself.”

“Football doesn’t build character. It eliminates the weak ones.”

“It’s like golf. It’s not how you shoot, it’s how many.” After an ugly win over A&M in 1960

“If worms carried pistols, birds wouldn’t eat ’em.”

“It’s like having a big ol’ lollipop in your mouth and the first thing you know, all you have is the stick.” On losing a game in the last minute

“You’ve got to be in a position for luck to happen. Luck doesn’t go around looking for a stumblebum.”

“Breaks balance out. the sun don’t shine on the same dog’s rear every day.” Warning about trouble ahead with the rest of the 1961 schedule despite getting off to a 4-0 start

“There is no such thing as defeat except when it comes from within. as long as a person doesn’t admit he is defeated, he is not defeated. . . . He’s just a little behind and isn’t through fighting.”

“Next to weather, there is no equalizer like two fired-up football teams.”

“Football’s like Russian roulette. Most of the time, the firing pin hits an empty chamber, but you never know when the big bang is coming.” On his theory that most football games are decided with a few big plays

“I’ve always said nobody will ever have any trouble getting me out of the party. If I see a yawn, I hit the door real quick. I didn’t want to stay here until I wore out my welcome, and I don’t think I have.” Response to writers wanting to know why Royal was retiring in 1976

“To be successful as a team, you must bring all the parts together and play as one heartbeat.”


“Winning coaches must treat mistakes like copperheads in the bedclothes—avoid them with all the energy you can muster.”

“You can’t invent a feeling.” On why he doesn’t give fiery rah-rah speeches

“The foremost rule is be natural. If you’re not completely natural, you couldn’t convince your players Doris Day is a girl.”

“You can’t kid a kid. If you’re not completely honest with your players, you’re kidding yourself.”

“Give me an O.J. Simpson, and I’ll show you a coaching genius.”

“I know this about coaching: you don’t have to explain victory, and you can’t explain defeat.”

“I’m so far in debt that I’ll never get out of it, so I might as well be in debt where it’s warm.” Tongue-in-cheek response to the rumor that he would take a coaching job with the New York Giants

“I don’t know. I never had one.” Answer to Mack Brown, then coach at North Carolina, when Brown asked Royal how he handled a losing season

“I could write a good first grade reader. It would go, ‘See Texas run. See Texas fumble. See Texas run and fumble.’” After Texas lost three fumbles against rice in 1970 but still won 45–21

“I always said I’d never be a teacher and I’d never be a politician. And I look back on my twenty years and see that I wasn’t anything but both of them.” To John Wheat in Coach Royal: Conversations with a Texas Football Legend


“He was as quiet as a mouse pissing on cotton.”

“His finger was throbbin’ like a sick robin’s ass.” On a friend who got a nail driven through his finger

“It’s as near nothing as a grapette.”

“He’s so rich he could burn a wet elephant.”

“He didn’t know me from a bale of hay.” Referring to Julio Iglesias, who was recording an album with Willie Nelson

Excerpted from DKR: The Royal Scrapbook by Jenna Hays McEachern, with Edith Royal. Published Sept. 1 by UT Press. 

From top: According to Edith: “One of Marian’s favorite pictures of her Daddy”; 1957 Longhorn coaching staff invigorated the program, taking a 1-9 team to a 6-4-1 season; A page of the Miami News, 1949; Royal and the Longhorns on the field at the last game Royal coached in Memorial Stadium, Dec. 4, 1976.

Photos courtesy UT Press.


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