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 would like to extend it's deepest sympathy to Doug Williams, James Harris, and the entire Grambling family on the passing of Coach Eddie Robinson

April 2007

I first learned of Head Coach Eddie Robinson as a youngster in the Philadelphia area when my grandfather was going to Yankee Stadium to see the great Grambling football team.  I inquisitively asked him about Grambling, because they were not on ABC on Saturday afternoons like Penn State or Alabama.  He explained to me that they were the ‘black” version of Notre Dame and their head coach was their version of Knute Rockne, a fiery winner that never said die.  Grambling he said had a “subway alumni” that stretched from coast to coast and that he was proud to be a supporter of the team.  After that point I followed the team through publications and that is why I felt a great loss on Wednesday when learning the news that our beloved “Coach Rob” had passed away at the age of 88.  Some may want to characterize Coach Rob as just a winning coach who won 408 games, 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles, and nine national black college championships over a 57-year career at a small pre-dominantly black Southern university, but he was and is so much more.  To me he was a revolutionary pioneer that embodied “You make your own stake in life and that no should define you, but yourself”.  He passed this mentality along to his players and anyone else that he met over his life.  His goal, which he succeeded at, was to mold fine young men, who could go out into world and be leaders in their own way that just happened to be football players. 

 During his career he sent over 200 players to the NFL.  I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with two of his greatest pupils Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams and James “Shack” Harris.  Often when I talk with them I can feel the love and admiration that they have for the patriarch of the Grambling family.  Coach Rob let his young quarterbacks know early in their Grambling careers that nothing would be handed to them in the NFL, but they must prepare themselves for the opportunity and persistence in life was everything.  Recently Doug and Shack told a group of us at an event for The Field Generals organization in Miami that the teachings and lessons of Coach Rob kept them going when times were the toughest in their lives.  They said, “Disappointing Coach Rob was their greatest fear”.   Coach Rob made it abundantly clear that excuses and failure due to race would not be tolerated.  Shack recollected a story of how he almost didn’t go to the NFL and Buffalo Bills after he was a late round pick, because he knew of the landmines that awaited him as being one the first African American quarterbacks in the NFL. Coach Rob told him “You are going and you will succeed”.  And succeed Shack did playing for over 13 years in the NFL for the Bills, Rams, and Chargers including leading the Rams to the NFC Championship game and being named MVP of the Pro Bowl in 1974. 

 Doug also fed off Coach Rob’s wisdom and he found success through his words.  His journey of the extreme highs and lows in the NFL and USFL showed the persistence and toughness that Coach Rob preached.  He called on his mentor the most during the build up to Super Bowl XXll where Doug did not crack under pressure and scrutiny  regarding being the first black quarterback in the Super Bowl. Doug knew that the road he was traveling was less harder than Coach Rob taking over as young black football coach in the deep South in the 1940’s.  Coach Rob was there that day in San Diego to experience his prize pupil’s greatest work as he came back from a twisted knee in the first quarter and a 10-0 deficit and gave an All Time performance. Doug responded in the second quarter with a Super Bowl record 228 yards passing with four touchdowns, in what some call the greatest performance by a quarterback in a quarter. He finished the game with Super Bowl record 340 yards and 4 TD’s in the 42-10 triumph and was named the MVP.  Coach Rob said “It was his greatest accomplishment in football to see Doug Williams from Grambling lead his team to victory on the biggest stage” and that it was a like “Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmelling and that Doug was too young to understand the significance of the event”.  Doug to this day still gets choked up talking about how he felt when Coach Rob said that to him on the field in 1988. 

 Wednesday was tough on Doug and Shack, but Doug summed everything up best when he said "For the Grambling family this is a very emotional time," "But I'm thinking about Eddie Robinson the man, not in today-time, but in the day and what he meant to me and to so many people."  To me that says it all best because Coach Rob was a man of love, integrity, and persistence.

Rest In Peace, Coach Rob

-- Submitted by Lloyd Vance



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