The Closer- bY bARBARA wAINSCOTT
A story about DKR's recruiting skills in the 60's as seen thru the eyes of Longhorn all american Loyd wainscott
My youngest daughter is the Assistant to the Athletic Director for Klein High School in Houston’s far north side. It’s a 6A high school with a large athletic department. Lately the buzz has been all about recruiting. I didn’t know my husband at the time of his recruiting but I remember hearing his recollections of those days. I can also remember him saying it was probably the most positive time in his life. Most of our lives are smattered with rejections of all kinds here and there along the way...pleasing our parents, grades, dates, applications for jobs, applications for schools and many more along the road of life. But being recruited is quite the opposite. It’s all about people who want you, who seek you out and validate your own sense of worth.
In the old days of the 1960’s, when Loyd played, it was all about how many offers you got from the biggest schools in the Southwest Conference, how many offers you got from the biggest schools nationwide and how many schools nationwide made you offers...in that order. And then the fun began. I don’t know how all the rules have changed today, but back then it was a flurry of letters, phone calls, dinners at nice restaurants and weekend trips to schools all over the state and sometimes all over the country. I’m sure there was much more in the process for the recruiters but for the players a good bit of it was sitting back and hearing how great you were, hearing how well you would fit into their program and hearing how playing for their team would change your life forever.
Coach Royal told me once that the key to recruiting was “Mama”. If you could win Mama over you could make the sale. There was a lot of truth to that. Loyd’s mama wanted him to go to a good Christian school like Baylor so they could help keep him on the straight and narrow. And indeed, they sent a recruiter who swept her off her feet. He said everything a mama would want to hear... that her son was a good football player and that they could turn him into a great football player and that her son was a good kid who they would mold into a great man. What else could a mama possibly want to hear? But he didn’t stop there; he also said everything Loyd wanted to hear...he thought. Loyd had great visits from his newly found family friend and a great weekend at Baylor. At the end of the weekend his recruiter told him that head coach John Bridgers would like to see him in his office before he left for home. Head coach...in his office...very impressive.
Loyd was a very transparent person. I liked to call him a “passionate” man. He was always a very happy man, or a very sad man, or a very angry man; but he was rarely in between. He wore his feelings on his sleeve and you could read him like a book. When he left John Bridgers’ office that day there was no doubt about the read and the recruiter spent the entire ride to the airport asking what was wrong. But the book was closed and there was no conversation. The phone was ringing when Loyd walked into his house in La Marque later that day and the conversation continued. “What did Coach Bridgers say to you?!” his mentor pleaded. Loyd finally replied, “He said if I go to Baylor I’ll start. But if I go to Texas I’ll sit on the bench.” There was silence on the phone. The man on the other end eventually worked up the nerve to ask “And what did that mean to you?” Loyd’s answer was immediate and final…”It means he thinks Texas will be kicking Baylor’s ass. And it also means I’ll probably be on the team that’s doing it.” Bridgers had overplayed his hand and the recruiter knew it. He made a desperate attempt to clarify the situation but the damage was done. It was done.
Loyd had been fortunate and received a lot of offers. Some were straight up offers, many were “enhanced” and some were downright outrageous. He visited UT the weekend after Baylor. He had a great time. He was hosted by Tommy Nobis and Marvin Kristynik and for him it didn’t get any better than that. Once again he was called to the head coach’s office before he left. Coach Royal said “I want to tell you what we’ll give you if you decide to come here.” Loyd flinched a bit as Coach continued. He said we’ll give you room and board, tuition and books, a laundry allowance, a chance to play football in a nationally acclaimed football program and a first rate education.” It was all he needed to hear. It was a confirmation that he was worthy on his merits and he didn’t need anything else because he was capable of getting everything else on his own once he was there. It was the right play for him.
But Coach always had a way of bringing more out of his players. He always had a way of teaching life lessons along the way. He came around to the front of his desk and leaned in, as if they had crossed the plane and accompanying tension of recruit and recruiter and moved on to a more personal relationship. “Do you have any more recruiting trips to go on?” he asked. “Yes Sir.” Loyd replied. “I’m going to Arkansas next weekend.” Coach Royal dropped his head slightly and said “I know your folks make all your games. Arkansas is a long way away. Do you think you’re seriously going to consider playing football so far away from your family?” Loyd pondered the idea a few moments before he looked at him and said, “No. Probably not.” Coach stood up from the corner of the desk where he had been perched, stuck out his hand as if to authenticate what had just transpired and said, “I think you should do the right thing and not waste those people’s money if you are not really considering going to school there.” Bam. The Closer.
To their amazement, Loyd’s parents watched that afternoon as their son placed his plane tickets for his final big trip in an envelope to send back to Arkansas. It was no small thing for a boy from a low income family from a small industrial Texas town to give up such an opportunity. And perhaps the most amazing part was to feel good about it afterward in every regard. Coach Royal was known for many skills and attributes but one that isn’t mentioned much was his ability to get things done and close the deal.
That afternoon in his office was just the first of many times Loyd would say “yes” to what Coach asked of him. It was, I think, an act of ultimate commitment and respect. As he would say on many occasions in his life “You just can’t say no to Coach Royal.”