Coach Royal Regrets

Why he won. Why he quit. Why he doesn’t miss it.
Royal filled UT’s trophy case—three national titles and eleven conference championships.
Photograph by Michael Patrick

Raising a great cloud of caliche dust, Darrell Royal zoomed away from the lake house in his van. He explained his haste as a measure of consideration for another driver behind him; by putting more distance between them, he was trying to spare the other car’s finish a cloak of biscuit colored grit. He did not, however, slow down appreciably when he reached the blacktop, which curved through cedar brakes into a bait camp on the Pedernales River, thirty miles west of Austin. Making his midday rounds, Darrell paused on the front porch of a beer joint the regulars call Mona’s Yacht Club, where he engaged the dull, cross-eyed stare of a young possum that Mona had offered him earlier, by phone, as a pet baby raccoon.  Inside, Mona and her boyfriend, Sonny, made their customary small fuss over Darrell and rushed to prepare his usual with meat and double cheese. They’re proud of their clientele. Willie Nelson even brought Barbara Walters here for the taping of that strange celebrity interview. Greeted by a neighbor who had come to Mona’s to cash his Social Security check, the coach dabbed his French fries in catsup and discussed how they might bring their dusty road to the attention of Burnet County paving crews.

Like other retirees, Darrell Royal at 58 lives a life that is a mixture of old

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