Lord, He Was Born A Grambling Man

By Walik Edwards
Updated: April 6, 2007

CALIFORNIA — The thing I ever envied Grambling coach Eddie Robinson for was something that was used in a quote documenting his death Tuesday night was the fact that he felt his greatest “record” was having one job and one wife for 50 years and more.

People see that as an accomplishment, and I just get jealous. I’m not ashamed to admit that, because in order for me to be anything for the next 50 years, I will be Coach’s age when he left this earth, and at that point, I just want to remember things, walk on my own two legs, and use the bathroom like adults do.

The beauty in Coach Robinson is that you get the honor in writing something like this, and you talk about the man beyond numbers.

Coach made it “cool” for sports outlets to give prime highlight time to a Black college. Growing up in New York, we all knew about Grambling because they would hook up with Morgan State every year at Yankee Stadium for an annual showdown that would draw, at times, better than Yankee games.

Some of it was watching the bands and their ridiculous showmanship during halftime, an event that didn’t allow booties to lift off their seats during a supposed timeout, but I’m sure that if was anybody but Eddie Robinson and Grambling sharing the marquee, we might not have cared all that much.

For the kids who gave a damn, the ones who played before those last few years he was Grambling coach, they were all gentlemen. You hear most of them speak, and they seemed to live life the right way out of respect for their coach. There was no embarrassing Coach Robinson out in the real world — it was like an eighth sin.

Doug Williams was the standout of the 200-some players who were drafted into professional football, and took over the job at the school when Coach Robinson stepped down in 1997.

Not because Williams was the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, but because of what Williams did in terms of opportunities he seized after leaving Grambling.

Coaching the team was a no-brainer, and leading the Redskins to a Super Bowl victory was a combination of luck and skill, but continuing to be a man who is called for opportunities in the game, including his executive position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is the best thing that has resonated through his coach.

Coach Robinson made himself a success.

What we can take from him, especially in the black community, is that he didn’t cave in and blame others for not having opportunities. Things for a black man was tons different than they are now, and if people now think White America is keeping them from moving forward, you were strapped into one of those Hannibal Lecter chairs, and had to chew your way out back in the early 40’s.

So what he did he do? Well, he amazingly convinced his coaching staff that opportunity was more important than a paycheck, so none of those men got paid for a while.

He also played groundskeeper and “cook” for the team as well. This wasn’t heard of at White schools, and instead of stomping and crying about it, he made the most of it until it no longer an issue.

He also made Grambling a place to go play football. Almost all boys who play football at the collegiate level have a dream to play in the NFL.

In the aforementioned earlier days, black football players were on a mission to prove their white constituents wrong, so going to Grambling was a bit of a gamble, because even today, that school doesn’t earn a long sniff when NFL teams are drawing up their draft boards.

But to pass up an opportunity to start or even sit on the bench at a big non-black program to play for Grambling, was a huge sacrifice for the players, who countered that by having the opportunity of a lifetime to play for a legend.

The best thing Coach Robinson can take with him to the next level is the fact that he is the winningest coach in college football history. Period.

No mention of being a black coach, or playing at a black school where the competition might not be as strong as say playing in the ACC or SEC.

He died Tuesday as one of the greatest coaches and men who ever lived.