An Interview With Darrell Royal
By Madeline Hays
For Reporting Texas
Darrell K Royal, the Longhorn football coach who won three national titles and put University of Texas football on the map, was famous for his one-liners. And in his last sit-down interview, months before his death on Wednesday at age 88, there were still glimpses of his humor.
“They asked me a question about who’s gonna play or who’s gonna do this or that,” he said in May. “And I said, ‘We’re gonna dance with who brung us’ — in other words, we’re not changing.”
But it was also clear the toll that Alzheimer’s disease had taken on him.
“I don’t remember that,” he said often. “I don’t remember that.”
When asked about a favorite memory of his time at Texas,” he said, “No, I have to be reminded of them.”
His wife, Edith, who had been by his side throughout his battle with the disease, said that watching his deterioration had been painful.
“Who he was is not there anymore,” she said in an interview. “Most couples have a relationship where they understand each other with just a glance or a smile or something, and that relationship is gone. He doesn’t know it’s gone, but I know it’s gone, and it’s difficult.”
In February, the Royals became advocates for fighting Alzheimer’s disease, introducing a research fund. Speaking at the Capitol, Edith Royal said: “Everyday since Darrell’s diagnosis with dementia I deal with the stress of managing everything without my best friend at my side helping me to make decisions.“
His former players say they will remember Coach Royal for his lessons on how to be great men, not just great football players.
Doug English, who played at Texas from 1972-74 and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, recalled his coach saying: “‘Hit somebody or get out of the way.’ It means give it your best shot, or let somebody else do it. But that’s what we’re about, is giving it everything.”
Michael “Spanky” Stephens, a longtime Longhorn trainer, also praised Royal’s philosophy. “That’s the way I’ve tried to live my life,” said Stephens, who retired in 2000. “He’s truly, truly an amazing man.
Olen Underwood, who played at Texas from 1962-1964, added: “I was asked once who the most important men were in my life, and I said my father, my boyhood pastor and Coach Royal.”
The Longhorn coaches announced that they plan to incorporate Royal’s original wishbone offense into their game plan this Saturday against Iowa State in the stadium that bears his name: Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.