The question today maybe isn't whether the Texas Longhorns will run a play from the wishbone formation against the TCU Horned Frogs in honor of Darrell Royal. The question is why they wouldn't.
Darrell Royal's imprint will be felt again tonight, with Longhorns coaches and players wearing DKR initials to salute the former Longhorns coach who died Nov. 7.
And not just because of the "cockroach" game in 1961, when TCU's knack for knocking off a heavy favorite -- in this case top-ranked and unbeaten Texas -- was immortalized with Royal's comment that the Frogs were like cockroaches, not so much for what they eat and tote off but for what they fall into and mess up.
Pat Culpepper, from Cleburne, south of Fort Worth, was one of the stars of that 1961 Texas team and you can read about his feelings, and those of other Texas players, as they reflected on the 50th anniversary of the "cockroach" game last year in this story from the Austin American-Statesman.
During the public memorial service for Royal, televised by the little-seen but oft-reviled Longhorn Network, former Longhorns were asked to give their lasting memory of Royal. Culpepper chose words that many others remembered: It's how you treat people that can't help you that counts.
It takes awhile for that to sink in. Darrell Royal took awhile to sink in. He was a different cat. Ultimately, he was a man who was not only accepted the ironies of life, but embraced them.
That he was present at the creation for two of college football's greatest dynasties is irony enough. An Oklahoma All-America under Bud Wilkinson, part of the first teams that built the Sooners' dynasty with returning World War II service veterans, and yet the man who built the dynasty of the Sooners' fiercest rivals, the Texas Longhorns.
He disdained the pass, made famous by his dictum that when you throw three things can happen and two of them are bad. But the Longhorns' single most remembed play of his tenure was a fourth-and-4 pass to
Randy Peschel to help win the 1969 Shootout with Arkansas.
A man who coached the last all-white college football champion, but who Earl Campbell, in his tribute to the coach in Sports Illustrated, would call his best friend.
As a coach he sent wishbone developer and assistant coach Emory Bellard one spring to help OU refine the wishbone that the Sooners, and a young offensive coordinator, Barry Switzer, had installed during an off-week before the 1970 Texas game. A year later, Oklahoma and its wishbone had eclipsed Texas, and the Sooners' 1971 rout of the Longhorns relaunched the Sooner dynasty, which, in some ways, would force Royal out of coaching.
It's how you treat people that can't help you that counts.
He was a conservative man, a man of the World War II greatest generation, but yet he would be befriend, promote and maybe even ultimately save a singer and songrwriter named Willie Nelson, who, today, seems to be known more for his marijuana use as much as the beauty of his lyrics and songs.
Royal was a man of words, sharp, concise, clear. Perhaps his greatest contribution to coaching was that as a coach you must "dance with the one who brung you." You believe in something, you stick with it.
So, this, from the 1969 Sports Illustrated college football preview, which told of how the Longhorns had failed in the so-called Year of the Horns, 1967, but had found the wishbone and Royal's roots from Wilkinson, option football, in 1968 and rebuilt the Texas dynasty:
So, reenter the wing T, the attack Texas had when it relied largely on defense and its distinctive attribute of crisp blocking. "We have good runners, so we're going to let 'em run," Royal says. "And we should have better throwing. It's like those high school dances I used to go to in Hollis, Okla. You'd go up to a girl and ask her to dance, but she'd say, 'No thanks, I'm gonna dance with the one who brung me.' Well, that's what we're going back to on offense. We're going with the one who brung us."
-- Vince Langford