Forever the Soul of Texas Football

Darrell K Royal (July 6, 1924 –

November 7, 2012) was not only the greatest coach in the history of

Texas football, he was the reason for everything Texas fans associate

with Texas football.
A program with no real history of

success can be turned into a powerhouse, but a true football culture

cannot be manufactured, nor can the exact nature of that culture. The

opportunity is long gone. Time has passed and football has become a

multi-billion-dollar industry. A new brand can catch the attention of

an audience, but a core idea of a program cannot be set they way it

was in Darrell Royal’s time.

After all, the concept of what it means

to be a Longhorn did not spring from nothing. It was defined by


Football may be an essential part of

the culture of Texas, but that does not ensure a football culture at

an individual school. There are 12 FBS schools in Texas and not all of them care

in the same way that Texas fans do. Some may care to a similar

degree, but the nature of it, the way the desires manifest, is unique

to Texas because these qualities were unique to Royal. Just as the

collective psychology of Texas A&M fans is defined by the nature

of their program’s history, the collective psychology of Texas fans

is entirely structured around what Darrell Royal created at Texas.

“You can’t invent a feeling.”

(On why he doesn’t give fiery speeches.)

When Texas fans describe what they want

in a coach – in what areas they feel their current coach is

succeeding, in what areas they feel he is failing – typically they

don’t describe a coach who is “as good” as Darrell Royal. They

literally describe Darrell Royal.

Mack Brown’s new ‘tough-guy’ approach

that Pat Culpepper lauded earlier this week? The toughness that Texas

fans have said, are saying, and will always say they want in their


That’s Darrell K Royal.

“Football doesn’t build

character. It eliminates the weak ones.”

Texas fans want to win. They want to

win as bad as any other football fans. But when names like Nick Saban

or Bob Stoops come up, they often balk at the idea of seeing these

proven winners become their team’s coach. Often they can’t fully

articulate why, it’s just that something doesn’t feel right

about the idea. The reason they feel that way?

That’s Darrell K Royal.

“If you feel like celebrating,

wait until the other ten get there and celebrate together. You didn’t

do it by yourself.”

Texas is a curious combination of a

massive, wealthy football bureaucracy with a fanbase that has

in-built aversion to the appearance of dishonesty or corruption. The

reason for this aversion?

That’s Darrell K Royal.

“You can’t kid a kid. If you’re

not completely honest with your players, you’re kidding yourself.”

Because Royal is the culture of Texas

football, his legacy will define every Texas coach.

Current Texas head coach Mack Brown has

a national championship and took the team to a second championship

game. But when Brown departs, fans will not ask that the next coach

be just like him, nor if the next coach has even more success will

fans ask that his successor be like him.

It’s not the greatness of Darrell Royal

that is the standard. It is Royal himself.

“I don’t know. I never had

one.” (Answer to Brown, then coach at North Carolina, when Brown

asked Royal how he handled a losing season.)

Wednesday morning the Longhorns did not

simply lose the greatest coach in their history, they lost the man

who is the reason for their history. Everything that a Texas fan

loves about Texas football is Darrell Royal. Everything that is Texas

football is Darrell Royal.

And it always will be.

“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.”

[Royal quotes excerpted

from DKR: The Royal Scrapbook by Jenna Hays McEachern.]