Sportsmanship in Black: Eddie Robinson

Original publication date: February 3, 2011. In case you’re wondering, Madelyn and I are celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary today. Thank you, dear heart, for loving me in spite of me…

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary and this is a special gift for my lovely bride. Eddie Robinson was the coach of her beloved Grambling State University Tigers. If you don’t know who Eddie Robinson is, then let’s put it this way. Eddie Robinson is to Grambling as “Bear” Bryant is to Alabama.

Better yet, Eddie Robinson is to Grambling as Joe Paterno is to Penn State. You don’t remember who the coach was before him and every coach after him has to carry his torch. Robinson holds the Division I record for most wins by a head coach. Grambling State amassed an astonishing 408-165-15 record during his 56 years at the helm. Those 408 wins helped bring home nine national black college championships, 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) titles, and 27 consecutive winning seasons between 1960 and 1986.

Robinson was more than just the head football coach at Grambling. He was a fixture in the community; helping wherever he could. In addition to coaching the collegiate football team, Robinson coached multiple sports at Grambling High School. He was even band director for a time.

Honestly, how many football coaches do you know on any level who would humble themselves enough to direct the band? His humility made him a great teacher and leader of young people. More than 200 of his former players went on to player either in the AFL or the NFL. Robinson coached several Pro Football Hall of Fame players including Buck Buchanan, Willie Davis, Willie Brown, and Charlie Joiner.

Super Bowl XXII MVP and Grambling alum, Doug Williams succeeded Robinson as head coach in 1998 and continued Robinson’s standard of excellence with three consecutive SWAC titles of his own. The video below is a piece done by ABC Sports on the legendary coach and the Grambling program. Robinson’s philosophy can be applied to any sport at any level. Here’s to you, Coach Rob.

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