4.4.07

A PIONEER PASSES. Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, February 13, 1919 - April 3, 2007.

"The greatest man I've ever met," said former Detroit Lions cornerback James Hunter, a Grambling graduate. "I've been in the corporate world for a few years now, and I haven't met anyone there who could move me the way Coach Rob did."

Knowing that he had that impact on his players meant more to Robinson than any of his victories.

"When you take a long hard look at the guys that you coached, what kind of men are they? This is the thing," he would say.

"I can't go to a football meeting and talk all Xs and Os. We're talking about drugs. We're talking about going to class. We're talking about
studying.

"When you're into this business, it's hard to tell what coaches what, what they're in the business for. Are you for the glamour? Are you for the wins? Or are you trying to make the people with whom you're working better people for having participated in the game?"

What does it say about the world we live in that the next quote uses the expression "old school?"

Robinson was from the old school of coaching. He was a hands-on guy who was involved in virtually every aspect of his team. He thoroughly enjoyed his work.

He'd go through the dormitory at 6 a.m., ringing a bell, waking up the team for breakfast. During practice, he would demonstrate the proper drop back for his quarterbacks and show receivers the correct way to run pass patterns.

"When you love a profession, when you're doing something that you love every day, it differs from when you're just doing something," he said.

Precisely. When it stops being fun, find something else to do.

The end of de jure segregation also meant the end of a Grambling recruiting edge.

After Grambling was 5-6 in 1987 and lost to archrival Southern in the Bayou Classic, Robinson hinted he might retire because "he wasn't putting people in his pocket anymore."

Grambling rebounded with an 8-3 record in '88 ,followed that with a 9-3 mark and a SWAC championship and I-AA playoff appearance in '89. However, Robinson and Grambling fell on hard times toward the end of his career.

The Tigers had losing records each of his last three seasons, a first for Robinson, and he was forced to retire.

Robinson made Grambling a household name in college football circles. He produced more than 200 professional players. In 1971, 43 Grambling players were in training camps, a pro football record that still stands.

On the one hand, expansion of pro football. On the other hand, expansion of opportunities for players with African ancestry. Those opportunities were enhanced by Grambling's, and coach Robinson's teams', successes.

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