Darrell K Royal is known all over Texas. More than a coach but always the coach. This unvarnished biography provides the rest of the story.
Darrell K Royal is a name that resonates throughout the entire State of Texas. His legendary career as head coach for the Texas Longhorns earned him a place in history that is remembered and cherished by anyone who has cheered from the stands at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium.
DKR’s life helped inspire a movie that will debut in theaters across the country on November 13th.
“My All American” is about the 1969 University of Texas Longhorns national champion football team and the touching story of team member Freddie Steinmark. What the movie doesn’t show is the side of DKR the fans weren’t able to see.
That deeper side of DKR is what inspired acclaimed author J. Brent Clark. In his just-released book, Texas Caesar, Clark digs deeper into the legend’s life to share it with all those who adore him.
The iconic college football coaches of the twentieth century emerged after World War II, bringing with them a military bearing and a love of “war without casualties”. Coach Royal’s life reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, replete with victory, defeat, betrayal and sorrow. Bear Bryant of Alabama, Bud Wilkinson of Oklahoma and Darrell Royal of Texas. What they accomplished as coaches could not have happened anywhere in the United States except the post-war South.
From the advent of television in the mid-1950’s through the desegregation of universities and athletic programs following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Coach Royal led the conflicted life of a warrior, a father and a friend of the rich and powerful. Forbes Magazine has stated that the UT-Austin athletic program is the most valuable in the country, worth an estimated 180 million dollars. The UT financial statement doesn’t reveal how big money and political power overshadow the games and the young athletes who play them.
In the beginning there was sorrow and loneliness. DKR’s mother, Katy, died three months after he was born, in 1924, leaving him in the hands of an inattentive father of six children and a veritable string of evil stepmothers. He found his father figure and mentor in Bud Wilkinson, the courtly head coach of the mighty Oklahoma Sooners. In Norman, Darrell emulated Bud and for the first time, knew glory as an All-American player with a fiercely competitive spirit.
By the early 1960’s, Royal’s job-hopping had landed him in Austin where the possibilities of gridiron glories remained unrealized. Royal was a perfect fit to change that. Television was bringing college football into the homes of Americans nationwide. Bryant, Wilkinson and Royal had an advantage. Each was telegenic, articulate and charismatic. The celebrity football coaches were earning their places in history by winning games but also by evolving into actors on a national stage.
The fall of 1963 changed the lives of all Americans. Royal’s Longhorns, ranked number two in the Associated Press, defeated Oklahoma, ranked number one, and went on to an undefeated season and Texas’ first ever national championship. Scarcely a month later, also in Dallas President Kennedy was assassinated. His successor was a Texan —Lyndon Baines Johnson. Royal’s life was going to be influenced in ways he could scarcely imagine and certainly couldn’t control.
Texas has always been a provocative political environment. A Texas politician has to yell long and loud to get noticed in the vastness of the state. Since winners migrate to other winners, post-1963, Darrell and Edith Royal were on everyone’s “A” list for political and social events. The oligarchs who called the shots at UT also made it clear to Coach Royal. They didn’t want any “coloreds” on their football team. While Royal coached the 1969 Longhorns to another national championship, the team regrettably was dubbed, “the last lily white national championship team.” Eventually, the tightrope Royal was being forced to walk began to wobble uncontrollably. It was the spring of 1974 before Royal finally landed an African American athlete to whom he could point with pride. The young man was Earl Campbell, the “Tyler Rose”.
Bryant, Wilkinson and Royal are gone now. There are statues and street names and even campus stadiums named after them. The game they knew and coached is gone as well. As a result, we are left with the historical perspective they gave us, punctuated by the agonizing undercurrents that changed the game and changed a nation.
J. Brent Clark is a lawyer, writer and activist in support of college athletes. He is a former NCAA enforcement representative and has been a frequent critic of that organization. His first book, 3rd Down & Forever, won the Oklahoma Book Award for Non-fiction. A related screenplay is in motion picture development at 21st Century Fox. Clark resides in Norman, OK.
J. Brent ClarkAuthor405email@example.com
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