The passing of legendary Grambling State coach, Eddie Robinson, causes a little embarrassment for this writer. For years the name Eddie Robinson only entered my consciousness with the televising of the ‘Bayou Classic’. I remember diminishing his overall record by thinking; who does Grambling play? Little did I understand his true impact on college football and our society.
The tributes about Coach ‘Rob’ that have emerged in the past few days do nothing if they don’t humble readers. To learn that Robinson served as his team’s equipment manager and trainer along with lining the field portray a man unafraid to do whatever it took to accomplish a goal. All of us should take a look around. How many of us would be willing to do what Robinson did? How many of us would be willing to do the equivalent of ‘lining the field’ at our own jobs?
Legend has it that during the era of segregation Robinson would pack lunches so that his black players could eat while on road trips. Something tells me that packing lunches wasn’t in his job description.
In fifty-six years of coaching Robinson graduated more than 100 players to the NFL. A figure that is only truly understood when one realizes that Grambling has a population of less than 10,000 students. My guess is that the training facilities at Grambling pale in comparison to those of Ohio State, Florida, USC, Penn State, Notre Dame, etc. Yet Robinson could still help his student-athletes aspire to the same lofty goals as those from other larger, more prestigious universities.
Another way to look at Robinson’s impact is to consider and compare him with other coaches such as Jim Tressel, Pete Carroll, Urban Meyer, Charlie Weis, etc. How many of the modern coaches have had as significant of an impact on their university as Robinson has had at Grambling? Knute Rockne might be the only coach to have had more of an influence on a college. Instead, how many modern coaches use a school as a stepping stone in their career pursuits.
I realize that Robinson comes from a different era. Perhaps many coaches during the 40’s and 50’s performed tasks deemed as subservient in today’s sports world. Maybe that is why we should remember Eddie Robinson. In this era of sports where team play is all too frequently replaced by self-glorification, and short cuts take precedence to hard work, I can only pray that Eddie Robinson’s legacy will serve as a model and source of inspiration.