In college football, more than probably any other sport, a coaching legend's legacy never goes away. Even if that legend has been gone for a generation or two, a current coach will still live in that shadow.
Darrell Royal is the dominant figure in Texas football, and may always be. Mack Brown didn't just accept that fact when he became the Longhorns' coach, he embraced it. In fact, "embracing" might be understating Brown's affection for Royal.
When Royal passed away, Brown released a statement saying Royal and Royal's wife Edith were among the best friends of he and his wife. He said Royal filled a void in his life after his father died. He called Royal his hero.
Brown announced on Twitter that Texas will wear a "DKR" helmet decal, and the Longhorns will line up on their first play Saturday in the wishbone formation to honor Royal, who is credited with bringing the wishbone to college football in 1968. It's a perfect and touching tribute from Brown to his late mentor.
That will be a wonderful moment at the start of Saturday's game.
It's a callback to when the NFL's Redskins lined up with 10 men on the field for their first play against Buffalo to honor safety Sean Taylor, who was killed a few days before the game. Whether Texas scores a touchdown on that first play or loses yards, it won't matter. It will be a great moment. Credit Brown for realizing that.
The tribute Saturday will also be a beautiful way to connect Texas' past and its present, something that Brown obviously values. Here is Brown's full statement about Royal's passing, which is a window into the relationship between the two Texas coaches:
"Today is a very sad day. I lost a wonderful friend, a mentor, a confidant and my hero. College football lost maybe its best ever and the world lost a great man. I can hardly put in words how much Coach Royal means to me and all that he has done for me and my family. I wouldn't even be at Texas without Coach. His counsel and friendship meant a lot to me before I came to Texas, but it's been my guiding light for my 15 years here.
"Coach gave so much more to the State of Texas and college football than he took away. He forgot more football than most of us will ever know, including me. His impact on the game, the coaches and players, the community and the millions of lives he touched, is insurmountable. He will be missed in so many ways.
"I lost my Dad when I was 54, and Coach filled a real void in my life and treated me like family. Sally and I gained a lot coming to Texas and being a part of this tremendous program but no more than our relationship with Coach and Edith. They were our closest of friends. Our heart pours out to Edith and the family and our thoughts and prayers are with her and the family. We will always be there to lend any and all support that we can as she and Coach always did for us."
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