San Antonio.- His football career was the stuff of legends.
He was the epitome of what a true coach should be in any sport. Recognized as the hardest working coach and the man who brought the Wishbone offense to college football, he was also known as the consummate sportsman.
Famed for his approach and dedication to football, Darrell K. Royal was much more than an icon for just the University of Texas at Austin.
His innovations to the game, strategies and schemes still in playbooks today, are contributions that exemplify just how impactful Royal was to the sport.
The Hollis, Okla. native stayed in state for his college ball and suited up for the legendary Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma. As a two-way All-American with most praise as quarterback, Royal’s approach to the game—marked by quickness and toughness—became an inherent characteristic of his breakthrough offense during his coaching tenure.
Four years after leaving the Sooners in 1949, via NC State, Tulsa and Mississippi State, Royal earned his first head-coaching gig with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos.
Then, after runs with Mississippi State and Washington spanning until 1956, Royal landed with the Longhorns the next season.
Royal took a 1-9 Texas team in 1956 to 6-4-1 in 1957, resurrecting a legendary football program that has since been. And within three years, Royal had already begun reviving the great Texas culture.
In 1963, six years after arriving in Austin, Royal’s Longhorns captured the first of three national championships in his tenure by defeating a Navy team led by the Heisman-winning quarterback Roger Staubach.
Texas also claimed the 1969 and 1970 national titles.
In 1968, Royal—aided by the handy-work of his offensive coordinator, Emory Bellard— installed the Wishbone offense, a specific formation that would captivate the country and see monster programs like the Bear Bryant-led Alabama Crimson Tide and Barry Switzer’s Sooners adopt the same scheme down the road.
Dedicated to having the offense run quickly, Royal’s new-look Longhorns were immediately successful with a 9-1-1 mark in their first season under the Wishbone.
Between the 1968 and 1970 seasons, the Longhorns compiled 30 straight victories while claiming two national titles.
Before retiring following the 1976 campaign, Royal had amassed 11 Southwest Conference championships, 16 bowl appearances while finishing with a 167-47-5 record without a losing season in 20 years of excellence.
Royal led the Longhorns to an eight-year winning streak over the Sooners, claiming victory in the Red River Rivalry each season from 1958 to 1965.
Royal coached legends like Early Campbell, Roosevelt Leaks and Tommy Nobis. He was the National Coach of the Year five times and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Although Royal retired in 1976, his impact on the program continued, as he was the acting athletic director from 1962 to 1980. Sixteen years later, the University paid tribute to his contributions by renaming Texas Memorial Stadium in his honor: Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.
Royal had been receiving treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. He was 88 years old.
• All-American quarterback for Oklahoma
• The Texas Longhorns all-time winningest coach with a 167-47-5 record from 1957-76
• 20 consecutive winning seasons (he never had a losing season)
• Three National Championships
• 11 Southwest Conference titles
• Six-time Coach of the Year
• Induction into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame
• Induction into the College Football Hall of Fame
Dennis M. Ayotte, Jr. is a reporter for La Prensa de San Antonio. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.