TLSN is building bridges to the past, present, and future
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Darrell K. Royal - The Bridge Builder
DKR's Story is an Horatio Alger story. Born into poverty his curiosity, focus, and commitment to detail helped him reach the pinnacle of success as a football player and Coach.
His journey into destiny begins with lessons learned in his youth, gains momentum during his years as a player at OU, accelerates during his Coaching years at Tulsa, North Carolina State, Mississippi State,University of Washington and the CFL, and peaks during his years as the Longhorn head coach.
By the time Coach Royal is hired at Texas he has all the tools to build bridges except one.
He was Afraid Of Public Speaking
Once while an assistant Coach at North Carolina State he completely forgot his speech at a banquet. Royal said "I got up to talk and drew a complete blank. If you've never had this happen to you, you don't know how frightful it is and how painful it is ...... I finally Just said I am sorry and sat down." It was after this embarrassing episode that DKR said to himself "if I am going to stay In coaching I have to whip this thing (Fear Of Public Speaking) or get out and try something else".
The origin of Royalisms
Royalisms have their roots in country music and in his hometown of Hollis, Oklahoma. Years ago Royal said to me after Barry Switzer wrote his biography that chronicled his rise from squalor to the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys that "Barry had no exclusive on being dirt poor as a young boy." As a boy Royal also survived a tenuous family life during one of the worst economic periods in American history.
In his younger days Royal was fascinated by a songwriter's ability to tell colorful stories in 2 minute song. He knew from the content of the songs that the songwriters wrote from experience and were "part of this world".
He once said " I've stolen and copied ways of expressing myself from songwriters". Royal learned from Country music how to make poignant visual points in a sentence. DKR learned at Texas that the press "didn't want a long, drawn out explanation". He said "they wanted something they could write, and they couldn't write a book. " Once Royal understood what the press wanted he started making insightful comments that were short, penetrating, and visual. Someone tagged these comments as Royalisms and the name stuck. Here is a sample of DKR using his "songwriter" skills to deliver his message to the press in a form they wanted.
Coach Royal says of James Saxton “He’s the quickest football player I’ve seen. He gives you a thrill on a two-yard gain.
He is like a balloon full of air. When you turn him loose, there’s no telling where he’s going and when the play is over, he’s spent”.
However none of the Royalisms would have occurred without the ability to speak in public. Enter Bill Alexander a consummate speaker who helped Coach Royal overcome his fear of public speaking. Bill told Royal to memorize The Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole and learn to tell it like a story and not a poem. Go to the 5:45 mark "Tribute to Darrell K. Royal" link to hear Coach Royal recite the poem.
Coach Royal did as instructed and learned a valuable lesson in the process. You can't imitate someone's speaking style or their mannerisms without coming across as phony so he decided to just be himself at speaking engagements. He commented "I do think that if you're sincere, even in a clumsy way, sometimes it might have some effect." After this revelation and the inspiration derived from Country Western songwriters, Royal finally created his own style and the Royalisms started to flow and bridge building took center stage the remainder of his life.
The book "The Darrell Royal Story" by Jimmy Banks states that at a young age boxing taught him that "over-respect for your opponent can be just as dangerous as under-respect." The video to the left makes Coach Royal's point. One boxer was putting his bluff in on the other boxer. It did not work.
Coach Royal's teams were never bluffed by the opposition. During the build-up to the 1963 National Championship game against Navy, the East Coast media and the head coach of Navy tried to bluff Coach Royal and the Longhorns.
East Coast free-lance writer Myron Cope stated that Texas is "the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the football public... Texas plays the kind of football that was fashionable when players wore perforated cowhide helmets...Duke Carlisle executes a hand-off like A construction foreman passing a plank to a carpenter." East Coast sports writers also thought the Royal players were "slow guys with skinny legs and big butts." While laughing at Texas and Duke the East Coast Media portrayed Navy and Heisman winner Roger Staubach as glamorous.
Coach Royal's response to all of this bluffing was a three word sentence. "We are ready". The Longhorns won the game convincingly. In reality, the Texas win over Navy was the last hooray for the dominance of North East Coast football. Great football moved South And West and North East football never regained prominence.
Royal learns a personal lesson about small football players.
He was told in high school that he was too small to try out for the football team. While small with medium speed, he did not know it. In his mind and in his spirit he felt bigger and faster than anyone. Because of his rejection due to size, Royal understood early in his coaching career that slow and small guys who think they are big and fast are great recruits. He knew these young men were winners because he also overcame size with heart, attitude, and spirit.
Bear Bryant and Coach Royal were friends and shared some of the same beliefs about the human spirit. In the Junction Boys by Jim Dent a statement is made that "Bryant didn't mind if a player was a little short in talent or stature if he compensated it with a big heart. Bryant even said " I can reach a kid who doesn't have any abilities as long as he doesn't know it." Bryant also believed that "What matters.... is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog." "Life's battles don't always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later, the man who wins is the one who thinks he can."
Royal's great teams in the 60's had many players who believed they were bigger and faster than they actually were, and they won. He often said about recruiting "if I have to make a choice I'll take the cocky ,overconfident , conceited kid over the one who has so much humility he can't look you in the eye."
One of the Navy players in the 1963 championship game said competing against Jack Lambert in the NFL was easier than playing against Texas players. He said "the guy in my nightmare is George Brucks from Hondo, Texas "who weighed under 200 pounds, but he took my head off all day long."
Royal also gravitated to recruits with dreams. No great activity starts without a dream, and as a young man Royal dreamed of kicking a ball 90 yards, running faster than anyone, and getting a coaching job that he could never get.
Royal was a great coach, civic leader, and ambassador for the University of Texas, but his most enduring legacy is building bridges for young Longhorns to cross. I am a product of his legacy. As a young man with dreams of greatness, Coach Royal built a bridge for me to cross so I could have the chance to fulfill my dreams. In me he saw a young man who thought he was bigger and faster than he actually was and nurtured those beliefs. I did not fulfill my goal of greatness as a Longhorn athlete, but I did cross the bridge he built for me and found new dreams that resulted in fulfillment in other forms. In life that is all a bridge builder can do.
The greatest years of Coach Royal's life were inspired by a poem that helped him overcome a fear of public speaking. In the process the message of the poem was his epiphany. The poem directed him to his true calling which was to " youth whose feet must pass this way. This chasm which has been naught to me To that young man may a pitfall be. He, too, must cross in the twilight dim. Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.
Thank you Coach Royal for helping build my bridge.
Billy Dale proud member of the 1967 football recruiting class