Sports Of All Sorts Scattered Between The Dots……..Darrell K. Royal And Sweet Memories………………By RC

It was early in the college football season of 1959 and that old black and white Zenith television set that my grandparents owned was all fuzzy with vertical lines all over the screen, yet I stayed glued to the end of the game to verify that the Texas Longhorns would conquer the Golden Bears of the University of California by a 33-0 count. I had cousins visiting from California and they had been bragging that Cal would win. The bragging didn’t last long as the Darrell Royal led Longhorns were off and running on another winning season. But little did I know that day that I would become completely enamored by the greatest collegiate football coach ever in my opinion……………………….I began to follow the Longhorns on the radio because they were rarely, as was the case of most of the college football teams, on television. And the broadcasts on those old Philco radios were no better than the reception on the television sets. But I would listen intently if only to get the score. And most of the time the Horns were victorious……………………As I began to follow Texas I would become more and more in awe of their ability to win year after year. I also knew that since the players changed from year to year that the secret must be in the coach. So that is when I became a Royal disciple…………………My memories began with the 1962 Cotton Bowl as the first viewing for me of that storied bowl game in which the winner of the old Southwest Conference would always host. It was two very successful teams and coaches squaring off. UT had won the conference despite a huge upset at the hands of the TCU Horned Frogs on a Sonny Gibbs to Buddy Iles touchdown pass. Texas failed to score and the shutout cost Royal and the Horns his first national championship. But now the stage was set in Dallas as UT hosted the Johnny Vaught led Ole Miss Rebels in this classic. Led by the elusive James Saxton and a stingy defense, Royal and his troops defeated Mississippi by a 12-7 score……………………….In 1963 Texas had finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 season and awaited the number two Navy team which was led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach. Coach Wayne Hardin had boasted about the chances of the Midshipmen to upset the Longhorns for the national title. It wasn’t to be as the Longhorns led by Outland Trophy winner Scott Appleton, All-American running back Tommy Ford, and the greatest defender ever for the burnt orange, Tommy Nobis in what was then a rout of 28-7. Darrell Royal had claimed his first national championship………A year later Texas beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl by stopping Joe Namath and the Crimson Tide on the goal line to preserve a 21-17 win. Having lost to arch rival Arkansas 14-13 during the conference season Texas probably handed the Hogs the national championship by knocking off number one Alabama. Royal no doubt was probably filled with “what could have beens” but was also more than likely very happy that one of his best coaching friends Frank Broyles from Arkansas had won his own championship…………………..The great run for Texas had begun to sputter as three consecutive 6-4 campaigns during the 65’,66’, and 67’ seasons had started to take its toll on the brilliant Royal. During the recruiting season of 1967 Royal and his staff signed what has got to be one of the greatest if not the greatest classes ever on the forty acres. The bell cow of that bunch was Steve Worster of Bridge City. At almost every position UT had signed the bluest of blue chippers and they would not disappoint…………..In 1968 season that class of sophomores would team with two other very highly touted recruiting classes to begin a string of 30 consecutive victories. The 68’ season didn’t start off very promising as the UT coaching staff was breaking in a new offense which was dubbed the “wishbone” after it began to click in the 30-0 run. James Street out of Longview had taken over at quarterback for a former super recruit Bill Bradley who had been labeled as “ Super Bill” after a stellar high school career at Palestine. Along with him in the backfield was Worster at fullback and Ted Koy and Chris Gilbert at halfbacks. Gilbert was signed the same year as Bradley as was the most electric runner at Texas since Saxton. Koy was the younger brother of Ernie Koy Jr. who was on the team that beat Alabama in the 65’ Orange Bowl. His dad Ernie Sr. had also been a star in the thirties. After a 20-20 tie with the University of Houston and a nine point loss in Lubbock to Texas Tech at 31-22, Royal and his young offensive coordinator Emery Ballard would unveil the potent wishbone offense, that would not lose again until the 1971 Cotton Bowl…………It was in the national championship year of 1969 that the legend of one Darrell Royal would grow to heights that very few collegiate coaches have reached. He had his team rolling as the number one team in the land just ahead of conference rival and the ever present nemesis Arkansas Razorbacks. Because of TV money the game had been moved to December 6th. It was the one hundredth anniversary of college football and the stage could not have been larger as the two teams readied to battle for football supremacy………………………Texas traveled to Arkansas to take on the spoilers on their turf in Fayetteville. The Hogs were ready as they jumped out to a 14 point lead behind the play of two Texas schoolboys: quarterback Bill Montgomery from Carrollton and Chuck Dicus from Garland (I think). The Razorback defense led by All-American linebacker Cliff Powell had held the potent ground game in check all afternoon because of a great scheme designed by the coaching staff. However on the first play of the fourth quarter Street dropped back to pass and then began to scramble. The end result was a forty yard touchdown scamper. On a counter option play that had already been decided prior to the game by Royal, Street crossed the goal line for the successful two pointer. It was now 14-8. Late in the game and the Horns facing fourth and four near midfield Royal called a timeout and told Street that they would run a pass where they faked the option and would throw to tight end Randy Peschel. The pass for another 40 yard gain set the team up for an eleven yard run by Koy to the two and Wisconsin native Jim Bertelsen carried the final two yards. Knotted at 14-14 Happy Feller kicked the PAT and Texas won the highly coveted national championship. It was the pass to Peschel that Street said made Darrell Royal great instead of just very good. It was his willingness to take a chance and put the game in the hands of his players that earned him monumental respect. It is probably the most noted call in the history of UT football ……………………………Royal would win his third and final championship the following year even though a loss in the Cotton Bowl marred the perfect season record. But in those days, the national title was awarded prior to the bowl games. His teams would win another three consecutive SWC titles before giving up the throne. That would be the only time that a team would win that many titles consecutively at any point in the history of that once proud conference…………………….It would be useless for me to try and write down all the records and awards accrued by Darrell Royal while coaching at Texas. The list is long and impressive needless to say………………….I have been fortunate to have met some of the Texas players and it is always interesting to hear their stories about Royal. Most of them will tell you that they never were really close to him until their playing days ended and then they became very close. Many books have been written about him and a couple different videos have been made that tracked him from his boyhood roots during the “Dust Bowl” days in Oklahoma, his playing days at OU, and his coaching career with the stops at Mississippi State and Washington to his final stop at Texas…….He is highly respected and even more admired by any number of legends of the game, entertainers such as Willie Nelson and Larry Gatlin, and celebrities in the political world………….But I was fortunate to learn personally how genuinely humble this great man really was as a person. In my first year as principal at Comanche High School my friend from my coaching days at CHS, Danny Kent, had gone into the Allsups Convenience Store on Highway 16 in Comanche where he encountered Coach Royal who was traveling back to Hollis Oklahoma to visit family. Danny asked Coach Royal if he would mind stopping by my office at the high school to meet me because he had no greater admirer than me. Because he is such a great person he readily obliged him. And Coach Royal didn’t just come in and say “hello” and leave, he stayed for almost an hour sharing coaching stories and stories of players whom he had coached. I had an entire book case filled with Darrel Royal paraphernalia. His first comment upon entering my office was, “man you are a fan”. It took me a few minutes to gather my senses as I was simply awestruck by his mere presence. Every player’s name that I called was followed with a positive comment by Coach Royal. It was one of my finest hours simply because rarely do any of us ever get to meet those who have attained legendary status and inspired us so grandly at the same time……………After Coach Royal left I just sat back and allowed my mind to take me back through those years of being entertained by the Longhorns on the field and reading his ever so famous quotes. It was a wonderful trip back in time and I felt so grateful that I had been able to sit and visit with “The Greatest”………………………..RC

About Ronnie Clifton

Ronnie Clifton was a Texas Football Coach for 29 years. In addition to football, Clifton also served as the head coach in basketball and both girls and boys track. “I loved being involved in and playing sports as a kid, and I soaked up every ounce of available information about any sporting event; I also love to write. What better combo for me than becoming the writer of a sports blog?”
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