Coach, Remembered

Legendary former head football coach Darrell K Royal, who died in November at age 88, left a lasting impression on everyone he met. The Alcalde asked fans, alumni, and friends to share their memories of UT’s winningest coach.

“I lost my dad and grandad just before I came to Texas. Darrell K Royal became both a friend and a father figure. People always recall his wit, but it was his wisdom that I will always remember.”
—Football Head Coach Mack Brown


“He ended all his practices with the following play: 88 and to the gate. How appropriate that his life ended at 88, and it was on to heaven’s gate.”
—Zane Gober


“Much of Coach Royal’s success was due to his uncanny ability to communicate simply and clearly. In the 1967 game against Oklahoma, we had played miserably in the first half—we were lucky to only trail OU 7-0. During halftime the chaotic locker room suddenly fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone was aware that Coach Royal was standing in our midst, arms crossed, prepared to address his team.

With every eye locked on him, he said very quietly: ‘Men, there’s a helluva football game going on out there … you might consider playing in it.’ With that said, he left the room. Oklahoma finished that season with a victory in the Orange Bowl and a 10-1 record. Its only loss was that game against Texas by a score of 9-7. Coach Royal’s 10 second halftime ‘speech’ was all that was needed.”
—Former player Dick Watt, BA ’69, JD ’72


“At the end of the 1970 Cotton Bowl, my grandmother said to my uncle, ‘Bob, get me my heart pills, please.’ He brought them out and said, ‘Pass ’em around, Ma.’ Coach Royal was an icon among icons and a big part of my childhood. I say those things as a proud Aggie (and UT Law grad).”
—Andrew Williams, JD ’89


“I went to the last game he ever coached. He was an inspirational man and a great icon for our school. Rest in peace to the greatest coach we have known.”
—Michael Aronson, BA ’80


“I met him in 1978 when I was a freshman and will never forget the experience. He will be missed. Hook ’em!”
—Tonia Burnette, BAr ’83


“About three years ago, I was staying at the Barton Creek Resort and having breakfast with some friends when I recognized Coach Royal off by himself under the gazebo. I grabbed my coffee and strolled out and reintroduced myself. He was just as nice and approachable as any neighbor. If he had Alzheimer’s then, I certainly couldn’t tell it. We chatted about his record winning streak, the national championship teams, etc., for about 30 minutes. It was a stunning, beautiful Texas morning. I wish I had found somebody to snap a picture. I will never forget that morning coffee with DKR.”
—David Stedman, BA ’73


“He was the epitome of a Texas gentleman. Good to know the Longhorns now have someone to help coach the team from heaven. I see a lot of wins in our future!”
—Holly Noel, BSW ’83


“Not only an icon of college football, but also to how all men should carry themselves in life. My deepest sympathies to ’Horn Nation from a saddened Razorback.”
—Glenn Rose


“I will always remember what a fantastic person he was. I treasure a letter he wrote to me explaining his reasons for stepping down as coach many years ago. He was answering a letter I wrote him as president of the Texas Exes Mexico City Chapter, expressing our sadness over his leaving.”
—Carlos Diaz


“I remember one of the first times that I saw Willie Nelson. It was at a little honkytonk in Round Rock called Big G’s. I walked into the crowded, stuffy, smoke-filled room with my friends and sitting front and center on one of those tiny little metal folding chairs was Darrell Royal! He was there for the whole show and sang and laughed and drank beer with everyone else while Willie entertained. It was quite a night for me.”
—Geralyn Blanda Vine, BJ ’73


“My older brother took me to my first game at Texas Memorial Stadium in 1967. I can remember him telling me as we stood in the stands that ‘we do things a certain way down here,’ and sure enough as the game went on, I saw the Texas way in action. It was a thing of beauty.

I had the good fortune to shake Coach’s hand not too long before he died. Even at the end he was gracious and witty. I am incredibly proud that the Texas Exes Friends of Darrell K Royal Forty Acres Scholarships will forever memorialize this great man. Perhaps more than any other Texas figure, he epitomizes excellence, character, and integrity—things the Forty Acres Scholars program was designed to celebrate. Future scholars can look to Coach Royal and know: this is how things are done.”
—John Beckworth, President, Texas Exes

Photos from top: Darrell and his wife, Edith, served as honorary grand marshals for the Fiesta Flambeau Parade in San Antonio (Royal Family Archives). All photos courtesy UT Press.

Royal with his daughter Marian and son Mack in 1947 (Royal Family Archives).

Admitting to a case of nerves before football games, Royal said: “I’m the world’s biggest coward. I run scared all the time. As Eisenhower said, ‘Just before the election, the opposition looks twelve feet tall.” (Royal Family Archives)

The team that Royal had called “average as everyday’s wash” carried him off the field in triumph after the 1973 Cotton Bowl game (1973 Cactus yearbook).


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