Coach Darrell K Royal isn’t simply a Texas Longhorn legend; he is the Longhorn legend.
The former Longhorn coach was laid to rest early Tuesday morning in a private ceremony held at the Texas State Cemetery after recently losing his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Afterward, a memorial service was held at the Frank Erwin Center on the UT campus so that friends, family, and former players could say goodbye to the man who meant to much to everyone he ever met.
The funeral and memorial service were held just days after Texas fans celebrated the life of the man who built the program. As the Longhorns played against the Iowa State Cyclones last Saturday, Texas players took the field (in a stadium named for the legend) wearing the letters DKR on their helmets inside the logo that Royal himself created over half a century ago.
Flags around the stadium flew at half-mast while a crowd of 101,000-strong stood to honor him in a moment of silence.
On the first play of the game, the Longhorns lined up in Royal’s legendary wishbone formation, gaining 47 yards on the play. It had to go perfectly–for him, and it did.
At halftime, the Longhorn band spelled out “Royal” as pictures of his life and career were displayed on the screen with a silent and emotional crowd looking on.
Former players crowded the sidelines to pay tribute to and honor their coach and lifelong friend.
Royal once said that the mark of a man is how he treats people who can never do anything for him. He lived his life that way, and he taught his players and those around him to live that way as well.
Today, favorite memories were shared by former players demonstrating that to Royal, football was more than just a game; it was about the people involved. If anyone ever doubted that, they simply need to listen to what his former players and those who have coached beside him have to say about him.
Former Heisman trophy winner Earl Campbell wrote in a statement that he would “forever be in debt to Coach Royal”; he was an honest man who would always keep his word. He said that his coach saved his life and that Royal and his wife Edith “were like a mom and dad” to him.
Another former player claimed that his coach was a “blessed soul that fulfilled his destiny in helping others see their own potential in life.”
Current head-coach Mack Brown got emotional as he too shared his favorite memories of his mentor, some funny, others heart-warming. He closed by simply saying, “Coach, we love ya. We are going to miss you so much. May you rest in peace, and thanks for all you’ve given us.”
I myself had the honor and privilege of meeting Royal, and can tell you that he indeed did have a way of making you feel like you were the only person earth when he was speaking to you. It takes a special person to do that, and DKR was certainly special.
Willie Nelson, a close personal friend of DKR’s, paid tribute to Royal with a song that he once performed for Royal and his wife Edith after they lost their daughter in 1973, before a touching moment in which the flag was presented to Royal’s wife of 65 years.
Today, as family, friends, and fans alike gathered to remember the beloved coach, we will never forget all he did for not only the university, but for college football and even more importantly, for those people he met and touched along the way.
The ceremony ended with the Longhorn band playing The Eyes of Texas, Eyes that will forever be upon Coach Royal; the Texas Longhorn legend.