Milestones from the Life of Grambling Coach Robinson

Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, the first coach to reach 400 wins in college football history, died this week at 88. Tony Cox remembers the legendary coach.

Mr. EDDIE ROBINSON (Football Coach, Grambling State University): I want to teach this young man who's playing for us, and any other youth, you got to put something in it. You've got to get into the system and understand what it's all about and work at it.


That was former Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson. He died this week at the age of 88.

And NPR's Tony Cox has this remembrance.

TONY COX: The son of Louisiana sharecroppers, Robinson led his Grambling Tigers to 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles. He also retired with 408 wins. At that time that made him the winningest coach in college football history. Though he never coached in the pros, he certainly coached a lot of pros. Robinson, or Coach Rob as he was known, sent at least 200 players to the National Football League, including Hall Of Famer Willie Brown, Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, and long-time Minnesota Vikings receiver Sammy White.

Mr. SAMMY WHITE (Former Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings): We loved the man because he was a fair man, and we love the man because he teach you the art of hard work. And you just love the man for, you know, preparing you for the rest of your life.

COX: In fact, say many of Robinson's admirers, Coach Rob's secret to success on the field was winning the respect and admiration of his team off the field. He stressed the importance of a good education even to those on the NFL fast track. Coach Rob lived and breathed football, but it was not his life, nor would he let it consume the lives of his players. He always kept his office door open, says White. And to many, he was as much a father and friend as coach.

It was that kind of devotion to his players that inspired the same in return. Whether it was on the football field or giving an impromptu pep talk to Grambling's basketball squad. Again, Sammy White.

Mr. WHITE: All the players and stuff, after he got through talking, just crying and everything say - now this is the basketball team - say we'll kill for Coach Robinson. So that's what kind of impact, the kind of motivator that he could be.

COX: This Monday, Coach Eddie Robinson will lie in state at the Louisiana Capitol Rotunda. His funeral is scheduled for Wednesday, not far from the Grambling football field that now shares his name.

CHIDEYA: That was NPR's Tony Cox remembering Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson.

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I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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