Posted by Walter
Although we rarely discuss Division 1AA football, we here a the323 would be remiss not to celebrate the life of Eddie Robinson after he passed away last night at the age of 88. We spend a lot of time talking about coaches, and their abilities as both a teacher of football but also their abilities to improve the lives of their players. We have lauded coaches like Joe Paterno, and demonized others like Bobby Bowden. Eddie Robinson not only falls into the category of coaches who, like Joe Paterno, any person would be lucky to have their son play for, but he rightfully deserves to be discussed in the same breath as JoePa.
Eddie Robinson accepted the head coaching position at Grambling in 1941. He stayed there until 1997. In that time he managed to amass 408 coaching victories (the most in Division 1 history), a .707 winning percentage, and 19 SWAC Conference titles. To say that Eddie Robinson's coaching record speaks for itself is an understatement, but what is often lost is the dedication the man had to the school that hired him. Eddie Robinson continuously spurned offers from Division 1A programs and even the NFL to remain at Grambling and build it into the power it became. Eddie Robinson sent over 200 players to the NFL during his career, including the first players to be drafted from a primarily African American institution. Bear Bryant, Robinson's longtime friend and compatriot, credited Eddie Robinson with helping him break the color barrier at Alabama. And, unsurprisingly, the first African American quarterback to win the Super Bowl, Doug Williams, credited Eddie Robinson, who coached Williams and Grambling and preceded him as head coach, in the postgame celebration.
Eddie Robinson will forever be inexorably linked to the number 408. Each of those wins was well deserved, but to confine Eddie Robinson's influence and career to that single number would not do justice to the man or the football coach. Eddie Robinson lived a full life and he will be missed by the Grambling community, but also by football fans across the nation.