The late legendary coach Eddie Robinson was born on this day in 1919 in Jackson, Louisiana.
Robinson’s father worked as a sharecropper, and his mother as a domestic worker. He was able to earn a bachelor’s degree from Leland College and later added a master’s degree in 1954 from the University of Iowa.
The following year, Robinson coached Grambling State (where his career began in 1941 when the school was called the “Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute”) to a 10-0 record and the Black College Championship. Robinson’s Tigers outscored opponents 356-61 that season.
Robinson was 22 years old when he was hired and is credited with doing everything to get the program going, from fixing sandwiches for road trips where his players would not be served in restaurants, to taping sore joints. In his second season, the Tigers went 9-0 without allowing a point.
Teams coached by Robinson totaled 408 wins, 165 losses and 15 ties in 55 seasons that spanned 57 yards (no teams were fielded 1943-44 because of World War II), ranking second all-time in Division I and third overall in NCAA history in number of victories.
More than 200 players he coached at Grambling State made it to the NFL. That list includes Doug Williams, who was named Super Bowl XXII MVP after leading Washington to the title, and former Vikings RB Jamie Caleb (1961), TE Andrew Glover (1997-99), WR Jake Reed (1991-99, 2001), DE Robert Smith (1985) and WR Sammy White (1976-86).
Perhaps more impressive, however, is the legacy that Robinson left within the men he coached. Robinson passed away April 3, 2007.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was among those who has spoken on Robinson’s legacy:
“Eddie Robinson’s name is synonymous with the sport of football. We will be forever grateful for the more than 200 young men he developed at Grambling who starred in the NFL and those who later coached the next generation of NFL players. He always focused on coaching his players to be better men as well as better football players.”
Former Vikings running backs coach Tyrone Willingham (1992-94) is quoted by The Eddie G. Robinson Museum:
“There is no question that Eddie Robinson was a figure that was larger than life for most African-American young men of that era. At that time, Grambling was The Program and Eddie Robinson was The Man. One of the first football camps I ever attended was in Shenandoah, Virginia. The reason I attended was because Eddie Robinson was going to be there. ... He stood for all the right things.”