Remembering Eddie Robinson
Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson turned a lot of poor, black young men in the segregated south into great football players.
But what Doug Williams remembers is how Robinson made them even more successful in life.
""I think if you check the records, you'll probably find that well over 70 percent of his guys graduated. You talk about the 200 or so guys that have gone to the pros - the lives that he has touched,''' Williams said. ""But nobody talks about the guys who didn't make the pros - over 50-something years of lives that he's touched. I think that is probably the most important thing, if you sit back and think about the real numbers. Because just like myself and James Harris and Everson Walls, there was a whole lot of gyys in other arenas - lawyers, doctors and others - who were successful because they went by Eddie Robinson.''
Robinson, who coached 55 seasons at Grambling State and became the first to win more than 400 games, died Tuesday in Ruston, La. He was 88.
Williams, his former quarterback who went on to win the Most Valuable Player Award in Super Bowl XXII and eventually succeeded Robinson as coach at Grambling, remembered his former coach as a molder of men Wednesday.
""One thing he taught us was that it wasn't about the color of your skin,'' Williams said. ""He always told us that nobody, no matter who it was, would 'out-American' him. He was a firm believer that America is the greatest country that you can live in, that would give you the opportunity to do the things that you're capable of doing.''
When Williams became the first black quarterback to play and win a Super Bowl, Robinson met him after the game and tried to put the feat in a historical perspective.
""The first thing he told me was I wasn't old enough to understand the impact and it was probably going to take me some time to understand what had just taken place,'' Williams said. ""He kind of likened it to Joe Lewis and Max Snelling. He said that's what it was for him. It did take me a little time to understand the impact and I think this year, with Tony (Dungy) and Lovie (Smith) going to the Super Bowl, it kind of put everything coach Robinson talked about into perspective.''
But because Robinson coached a lower level of competition, some insisted it cheapened his victories compared to white football coaching legends like Alabama's Paul 'Bear' Bryant.
""They put Bobby Bowden and (Joe) Paterno and Bear (Bryant) in a different class than Eddie Robinson because he coached at a lower level,'' Williams said. ""But at the end of the day, if you measure every athlete who coach Robinson has coached against every guy the other coaches coached, you would find out that his players probably fared as well or better in the National Football League. It wasn't about what level it was. Coach (Robinson) only coached the players he was able to coach.''