College Football Loses a Legend in Former Texas Coach Darrel Royal

Earlier this week the news broke that Darrell Royal, the legendary Texas Longhorn football coach, had passed away at the age of 88.

The first football game was played over a century ago. The game as we know it today has been largely unchanged for decades. That is largely because of the men that played and coached the game back in its early days; back when it was all about the love of the game, school pride, and not about the paycheck waiting for players at the next level.

If it was not for such innovators the game would not have developed into the contest of wills that millions flock to every Saturday. Wednesday morning, at around 5:30 AM, college football lost one such innovator, Darrell Royal.

Current Longhorns head coach Mack Brown had much to say about his friend and mentor:

“Coach gave so much more to the State of Texas and college football than he took away. He forgot more football than most of us will ever know…He will be missed in so many ways.”

Royal is responsible for revolutionizing the way the game was played when he introduced the wishbone offense in 1968 after collaborating with his offensive coordinator, Emory Ballard. The idea was clearly for the team to run the ball with three running backs lining up in the backfield with the quarterback (and just one wide receiver).

The system quickly caught on after just a couple games. Royal’s Longhorns tied the first and lost the second game they used it in, but then rattled off 30 straight wins (that included two national championships). For the next two decades the wishbone would be a mainstay in college offenses all across the country.

His logic behind developing the offense was pretty straight forward. Never a big fan of passing he saw throwing the ball as only having three different outcomes and two of them being bad ones (interception or a dropped ball).

It definitely worked out well for Royal and the Longhorns. They would go on to tie or outright win the Southwest Conference in seven of the next eight seasons.

His career wasn’t all about the wishbone though. Even before he implemented it the Longhorns had won four conference titles, finished in the top five in five different seasons, and won a national title (1963).

Over the span of his coaching career at Texas (1957-76) he was 167-47-5. Including the three years he spent at Mississippi State and Washington he never had a losing season as a head coach.

"He is Texas football," UT coach Mack Brown once said. "He's what put us on the map. He's our trademark. He's one of those handful of guys who've done more for college football than college football did for him."

As could be expected, the Longhorns will be honoring the legend by placing decals with his initials “DKR” on their helmets. Brown has also said that the first offensive play the team runs Saturday against Iowa State will be out of the wishbone in honor of Royal.

Here’s hoping whoever David Ash hands the ball off to breaks off a big run and scores.
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