Tribute – Eddie Robinson (2.13.19 – 4.3.07)
Nobody could "out-Americanâ€ Coach Eddie Robinson. He believed wholeheartedly that America was the only place that would allow him to do what he was doing, regardless of whether it was a predominately black college. He saw coaching American youth as the opportunity of a lifetime.
Back in the day, most black players lived outside of bigger cities, so Coach Robinson had to travel dusty back roads to get his players. The type of kids he got weren't afraid of workâ€”driving plows and wagons, picking up sweet potatoes and corn. They gladly left those wooden floors and old fireplaces to go to Grambling.
Coach made sure we never used being black as an excuse for failure. He'd tell us all the time, "We've done so much with so little, we can almost do anything with nothing.â€ We spoil our kids today; a lot of them could not have played for Eddie Robinson because of what you had to go through.
Coach Robinson knew [that] if the NFL wanted to remain competitive and give blacks an opportunity, they had to come get some of his players. He started relationships with NFL players; those players always came back and shared with us how to get your degree, how employment was and how to carry yourself in society.
Coach didn't want me [to leave the Tampa Bay Buccaneers] and go to the USFL. He wanted me to stay in Tampa, but I was grown and had to make my own decisions. I told him, "Coach, stay out of thisâ€”this ain't your fight.â€ But Coach tried to intervene without me wanting him to. He would get on the phone and call [Tampa head coach] John McKay.
When I returned to the NFL, and we won the Super Bowl in 1988, I got hurt [in the first quarter]; Coach Rob will tell you his greatest moment in football wasn't the win, but when I got up and finished the game after I got hurt. I think that's one of the greatest compliments [that] can be paid. This is America. You got an opportunity? Take advantage of it.
At the end of the day, anything I've done has had an Eddie Robinson touch. I will forever be linked to him and Grambling State as long as I live. The day of his funeral, to watch the number of guys stand up, how they lookedâ€”the majority of us in black-and-gold suits and tiesâ€”it gave me cold chills, man.
Doug Williams, who attended Grambling State from 1974 to 1977, won a Super Bowl MVP trophy with the Washington Redskins in 1988.
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