Posted by Frazier
Eddie Robinson will be remembered as a football coach. His 408 wins is an incredible achievement, and the important role he played in thousands of young men's lives will never be forgotten. His incredible record of achievements stands for itself.
However, with Eddie Robinson, it isn't enough to simply discuss how much he was able to accomplish, both on and off the field, but how he did it. He was a quiet, gentle, thoughtful man. He led his teams with dignity and respect, both for his players and opponents.
This was a man who started his coaching career at Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute in 1941. The name itself is enough to tell you that this was a different time, seemingly a different country. But that's not how Coach Robinson saw things. He believed that his story, as an African American in a deeply segregated South, was part of the American story. He could have remained bitter at memories of having to pack lunches for his team for their bus trips, because he could never rely on service stations in the south to agree to serve blacks. But he remained optimistic about his country, despite the fact that he had seen first-hand the worst that America had to offer: "The best way to enjoy life in America is to first be an American, and I don't think you have to be white to do so," Robinson said. "Blacks have had a hard time, but not many Americans haven't."
Eddie Robinson and his players may have had it harder than most, but he was too focused on finding unity and communion to dwell on those things that seperate us. This was a man gracious enough to keep a framed photograph of Bear Bryant in his office, and it was this grace that inspired the Bear to keep one of Robinson in his. It would have been easy for these men, eventually in competition for the same players, from such different backgrounds, and such divergent views to be natural enemies. Yet they were friends.
It would have been easy for Coach Robinson to be bitter about the discrimination he suffered. The abuses he had to sustain, and the marginalization that he and his program endured. But Coach Robinson kept doing the work he knew he was born to do: coach football, lead young men, mold lives. And people started to pay attention. Today it's a different world, where Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith coach against eachother in the Super Bowl. Coach Robinson has helped us get so far, and yet there is still so far left to go.
For all the accolades, the records and the success, he understood that leading a good life was more important than winning football games, and he often told people that more impressive than all his records was that he spent over fifty years at the same school, and with the same woman, his beloved wife Doris. He spent that time cultivating a family, of friends and admirers, of successful athletes and those inspired by his strength and courage, and of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Today we talk about football coaches who are so dedicated to winning. To ones who refuse to lose, and believe that the game is everything. Many of these coaches do win, but I believe Coach Robinson won so much because that wasn't the only thing he was focused on: "A young man may not make the team, but he might go on to be one of the guys that might change the course of the world. We have to give something back."
Coach Robinson understood that college football should give back to schools, to campus life, to alumni, to academics and scholarships for something other than being able to run fast or catch passes or tackle running backs. So as much as we love college football here at the 323, maybe we should all try a little harder to give something back. This is how we can best remember the legacy of Eddie Robinson.