Former Grambling State Tigers Football Coach Eddie Robinson dead at 88
Robinson was a college football legend. RIP.
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RUSTON, La. - Eddie Robinson, who sent more than 200 players to the NFL and won 408 games during a 57-year career, has died. He was 88.
Super Bowl MVP quarterback Doug Williams, one of Robinson's former players, said the former Grambling State University coach died shortly before midnight on Tuesday. Robinson had been admitted to Lincoln General Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.
"For the Grambling family this is a very emotional time," Williams said Wednesday. "But I'm thinking about Eddie Robinson the man, not in today-time, but in the day and what he meant to me and to so many people."
Robinson's career spanned 11 presidents, several wars and the civil-rights movement.
His older records were what people remembered: in 57 years, Robinson set the standard for victories, going 408-165-15. John Gagliardi of St. John's, Minn., passed Robinson and has 443 wins.
"The real record I have set for over 50 years is the fact that I have had one job and one wife," Robinson said.
He had been suffering from Alzheimer's, which was diagnosed shortly after he was forced to retire following the 1997 season, in which he won only three games. His health had been declining for years and he had been in and out of a nursing home during the last year.
Robinson said he tried to coach each player as if he wanted him to marry his daughter.
He began coaching at Grambling State in 1941, when it was still the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, and single-handedly brought the school from obscurity to international popularity.
Grambling first gained national attention in 1949 when Paul "Tank" Younger signed with the Los Angeles Rams and became the first player from an all-black college to enter the NFL. Suddenly, professional scouts learned how to find the little school 65 miles east of Shreveport near the Arkansas border.
Robinson sent over 200 players to the NFL, including seven first-round draft choices and Williams, who succeeded Robinson as Grambling's head coach in 1998. Others went to the Canadian Football League and the now-defunct USFL.
Robinson's pro stars included Willie Davis, James Harris, Ernie Ladd, Buck Buchanan, Sammy White, Cliff McNeil, Willie Brown, Roosevelt Taylor, Charlie Joiner and Willie Williams.
Robinson said he was inspired to become a football coach when a high school team visited the elementary school he attended.
"The other kids wanted to be players, but I wanted to be like that coach," Robinson said. "I liked the way he talked to the team, the way he could make us laugh. I liked the way they all respected him."
Robinson was forced to retire after the 1997 season, after the once perennial powerhouse fell on tough times. His final three years on the sidelines brought consecutive losing seasons for the first time, an NCAA investigation of recruiting violations and four players charged with rape.
As pressure mounted for him to step aside, even the governor campaigned to give him one last season so he could try to go out a winner.
But 1997 produced only three wins for the second straight year.
Robinson's teams had only eight losing seasons and won 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles and nine national black college championships. His den is packed with trophies, representing virtually every award a coach can win. He was inducted into every hall of fame for which he was eligible, and he received honorary degrees from such prestigious universities as Yale.