Head coach Mack Brown, UT President William Powers Jr., former player Marvin Bendele, Bill Little, special assistant to the head football coach for communication and former Texas golfer Ben Crenshaw, were among those who spoke at the memorial service. Willie Nelson, Royal’s friend of 50 years, performed “Healing Hands of Time” in his honor.
Royal served as head coach of the Longhorn football team for 20 seasons from 1956 to 1976. His record as head coach is 167-47-5, a school record that remains unbroken. Eulogizers spoke of his love for his football, golf, the University of Texas and, most importantly, his players.
“Coach Royal understood that all of this was never about him,” Little said. “It wasn’t about all of the victories and the championships. He loved the game, not only for the competition — and he was a fierce competitor — but because it taught the lessons of life. It was about character. It was about integrity.”
Royal mentored Brown and the two formed a father-son relationship. Royal taught Brown how to be a successful coach at the University of Texas. Brown told a story of when Royal called him at night after a tough loss.
“He said don’t get too high on those days you win because you didn’t play as good as everybody thinks you did, and he said don’t get as low as you are right now on the bad days because you are going to have some more,” Brown said. “That’s just part of it.”
Brown also told the story of when the Longhorns won the national championship in 2005. Brown sent Little to go get Royal and his wife, Edith, to bring them down to the field to celebrate. Royal won three national championships as the Texas head coach. He refused to go to the field and said,
“No, I’m not coming out there. It’s you time. You enjoy this.”
But Edith took a roll of tape to the bus that held the team’s equipment and where it read “three national championships” on the bus, she taped over the three with a four.
Brown said he once asked Royal what the best and worst things about being head coach were. He said Royal answered, “25 million people care every day about what you do,” to both questions.
Bendele spoke with testaments from former players. He said Earl Campbell, who was present at the memorial, describes the Royals as parental figures to him.
“Earl Campbell said he would always be indebted to coach Royal,” Bendele said. “Coach promised Earl and his mother that he would get a college degree and become the best athlete he could be. Earl said coach was honest and always kept his word.”
Powers spoke of Royal’s importance in creating the University of Texas brand. He was the one who determined that Texas’ colors would be burnt orange and white, not just orange. He also was the first to put the Longhorn silhouette on Texas’ helmets. Powers said what made Royal such a beloved figure was his success on and off the football field.
“A great coach, yes of course, but even more, he was an inspiring man and an inspiring leader,” Powers said.
To close the ceremony, the UT marching band played Royal a farewell “The Eyes of Texas” tribute.
He was buried privately in the Texas State Cemetery in East Austin, an honor reserved for “legendary Texans who have made the state what it is today.”
by David Maly
Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Remembering DKR: memorial commemorates coach