AUSTIN, Texas – Former Texas coach Darrell Royal was remembered Tuesday as a humble champion who built a powerhouse football program and a Longhorn brand known around the world.
About 1,500 people attended a campus memorial service for the coach who led Texas to national championships in 1963 and 1969 and a share of a third in 1970. Royal also revolutionized college football when he introduced the wishbone offense in 1968.
Royal died in Austin on Nov. 7 at the age of 88. He was buried at the Texas State Cemetery in a private service on Monday.
Royal grew up chopping cotton in Dust Bowl-era Oklahoma and was a standout player for the Sooners in the 1940s. It was Royal who determined Texas would wear not wear "just orange" but burnt orange, and put the Longhorn logo on the players' helmets, Texas President Bill Powers said.
"The rarest of creatures: an Oklahoma Sooner who brought glory and unprecedented success to the University of Texas," Powers said. "He was the real creator of the Longhorn brand that defines our institution around the world today."
Royal was just 32 when Texas hired him before the 1957 season. Over the next 20 years, Texas won 167 games and 11 Southwest Conference titles and played in 16 bowl games. Royal, who never had a losing season, retired in 1976.
The 90-minute service drew dozens of Royal's former players and coaching friends and rivals, including former Arkansas coach Frank Broyles, a close friend, and former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, a fierce rival toward the end of Royal's career. Former Heisman Trophy running back Earl Campbell, who Royal recruited to Texas, former Texas A&M Heisman winner John David Crow and former Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum also attended.
"It didn't matter if you were a starter or on the fifth team, he loved you," said James Street, quarterback of Texas' 1969 national championship team.
Willie Nelson, a longtime friend of Royal's sang "Healing Hands of Time." Nelson sang the same song for the Royal and his wife Edith in their home after their daughter Marian died in 1973.
Texas coach Mack Brown, who became very close to Royal since taking over the Longhorns program in late 1997, recounted the lessons Royal taught. The first came when Brown was coaching at Tulane and Royal was among a group of advisers brought in to evaluate the program.
The others told him everything would be fine. Royal told him "Boy, get out of here as fast as you can." Brown listened and soon bolted for North Carolina.
When Brown took the Texas job, Royal told Brown he had to repair a fractured support base, develop new ties with Texas high school coaches and to learn to shrug off criticism.
"One other thing," Brown said Royal told him. "You've got to win all the damn games."
Brown led Texas to the 2005 national championship, its first since Royal retired.
Broyles, whose top-ranked team lost to No. 2 Texas in the "Game of the Century" in 1969, called Royal a great friend. The coaches both announced their retirement after facing each other in the 1976 season finale, a Texas win. Broyles said the families often vacationed in Mexico together.
"We never talked football. It was always golf and family," Broyles said. "He was one of the greatest coaches of all time."
Switzer, who had a bitter rivalry with Royal in the final seasons before Royal retired, attended the service with current Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione.
Switzer recalled how Royal had Texas assistant Emory Ballard call him in 1970 to help the Sooners install the wishbone offense.
"Darrell did something for us no other coach had ever have done and I don't think I would have done," Switzer said. "I was surprised at the time that he did it ... I was an assistant coach at that time and I hadn't (made him mad) yet. That goes back to what kind of guy he was and person he was."
Royal also was a veteran of the Army Air Corps and his widow was presented with a U.S. flag by the University of Texas Army ROTC. When the Longhorn band struck up "The Eyes of Texas" for Royal for the final time, Edith Royal stood clutching the flag with her right hand raised in the "Hook'em Horns" salute.