Texas said goodbye to Longhorns coaching legend Darrell K. Royal Tuesday in a public memorial service at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Willie Nelson, one of Royal’s greatest friends, performed, and the ceremony closed with the UT Marching Band playing “The Eyes of Texas.”
The state’s greatest-ever football coach, who died last week at the age of 88, was buried in a private service Monday. The university also honored Royal inside the stadium that bears his name on Saturday, during the Longhorns’s game against Iowa State (UT won).
“He was the real creator of the Longhorn brand that defines our institution around the world today,” UT president Bill Powers said Tuesday, referring to Royal’s invention of the school’s helmet logo and his definition of the team’s primary color as “burnt” orange.
More than 200 of Royal’s former players–including Earl Campbell–were among the estimated 1,800 people in attendance, wrote the Austin American-Statesman ’s Randy Riggs. Other notable alumni like Vince Young showed up, as well as former UT head coaches and assistants to Royal like Fred Akers and David McWilliams. Even Governor Rick Perry, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, and Attorney General Greg Abbott paid their respects.
Representatives from Texas A&M ( R.C. Slocum, John David Crow), the University of Arkansas (Royal’s good friend Frank Broyles, Ken Hatfield), Baylor (Grant Teaff) and Oklahoma University (Barry Switzer) also attended.
Born in Hollis, Oklahoma, Royal was a former OU player, something Powers noted in his speech: “The rarest of creatures: an Oklahoma Sooner who brought glory and unprecedented success to the University of Texas.”
Brown (who, coincidentally, briefly coached at Oklahoma) was one of a number of featured speakers, an impressive roster that included golfer Ben Crenshaw and several former Royal players from the sixties.
Chip Brown of Orangebloods highlighted some of Brown’s best comments in his live-blog of the service:
- Mack Brown takes the stage and says DKR “would probably think we were all a little over the top, getting dressed up in coats and ties. He would not like that. He would have preferred blue jeans and tennis shoes. He also wouldn’t like that our staff is here when we’ve got TCU coming up. He’d say, ‘How dumb is that? That you’re not working, boy?”
- Mack says DKR was the one who suggested Mack wear a T ring, created by Royal and given to athletes at Texas who graduate, even though Mack said, “I’m not from around here, and I don’t think I should wear it.’ Coach responded, ‘I’m not from around here, either, but you need to wear it.’ I put it on and have worn it every day since, and cherish it.”
- “I said, ‘Coach, what’s the best part of being the coach at Texas?’ And he said, ‘You’ve got 25 million people who care about what you do, every day.’ And I said, ‘Coach, what’s the worst thing about being the coach at Texas?’ And he said, ‘You’ve got 25 million people who care about what you do, every day.’”
Another classic memory, as the Austin American-Statesman ’s Kirk Bohls reported, was this story told by former player Marvin Bendele:
Bendele mentioned the time that teammates Don Talbert and Ed Padgett ran into a boyish, 32-year-old DKR days after he was hired and mistakenly asked Royal’s position on the depth chart. “They have me down as the new head coach,” Royal said dryly, “and I hope I can make this team.”
And then towards the end Royal’s old pal Willie performed “Healing Hands of Time.” (Nelson had also sang the song for Royal and his wife Edith in 1973, when their daughter Marian died.)
“Unbelievable performance from Willie. Tears streaming down everywhere,” wrote Chip Brown.
The video below, also via KVUE, begins with an introduction by Red Steagall, recalling Royal’s love of music, songwriting and pickin’: