On February 16, 2014, the Austin Film Society presented a showing of The Big Shootout. Here is an exclusive video of the post-screening Q&A!
Former Texas Longhorn linebacker/defensive back Tom Campbell was inducted into the AT&T Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame during enshrinement ceremonies at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on April 19, 2012. Campbell starred in both the 1969 and 1970 Cotton Bowls. In the 1969 game, Campbell helped Texas defeat Tennessee 36-13. In that game, Campbell had 2 tackles (1 solo), 2 interceptions and 4 passes broken up. For his efforts, Campbell was named the game’s Oustanding Defensive Player.
The other honorees in the ninth Hall of Fame Class include, Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz, BYU linebacker Shay Muirbrook, Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray, and Arkansas defensive tackle Jim Williams.
(Pictures of the event posted here provided by Tom)
By the Christmas holidays of 2011, we had completed a first cut of the film. I knew the memory fuse was burning short on Coach Royal and the quicker he could see the film, the better. Edith Royal readily agreed.
We arranged to show the film to the Royal retirement community in the same room of my book presentation. Once again, 75 or so residents showed up. We expected a restless audience – short attention spans, residents chatting among themselves, laughing in the wrong places and so on. In other words, the behavioral pattern more of adolescents. The film ran one hour and forty five minutes so I also expected a steady stream of viewers filing out to the restrooms.
Coach Royal views the documentary with
Tom Campbell’s daughter Kate.
Prior to show time, with a packed house, I noticed no Coach Royal. Edith was already visiting with other residents. Then, I saw Royal in the lobby – his deteriorating condition sticking out like football cleats with a tux. With the aid of a walker, he was shuffling my way in underwater slow motion, all the while, wearing an expression warm enough to melt butter. His entire life was right there in that look, saying everything that the Alzheimers would no longer allow him to say.
When we finally stood face to face, without warming, Steve Worster, the legendary full back, came strolling through the front door, having traveled all the way from his home near Beaumont to watch the film.
Royal’s eyes stayed on me, failing to notice Steve. “Coach, do you recognize this guy?” I said, motioning to Steve with my eyes. Steve extended his hand, “Steve Worster,” he said, as if meeting his coach for the first time. Royal glanced in Worster’s direction, took a micro-second to process all this and then busted into that massive grin. “Woo woo,” he said in a high pitched voice, his eyes twinkling with more vigor than before. And then Coach’s mind and thoughts left the room.
Most likely, Royal considered Worster a bit of a disciplinary pain – a party goer, a hell raiser. The biggest star on the team that sometimes trampled team rules the way he trampled would be tacklers. Still, his Coach’s reaction was so natural, so spontaneous and pure, for that brief second, he recognized Steve and was clearly elated to see the leader of the Worster bunch one more time.
I under estimated our audience terribly. Their eyes stayed glued to the screen. No disruptive chatter among themselves. No one left to use the restroom.
As if attending the game itself, they cheered mightily on big plays, and shared a few tears to boot. In short, they had a ball and for the first time, we knew our film was special.
After the film was over, while the residents were visiting among themselves, I approached Coach Royal. “What’d you think?” I asked.
Coach stared a hole through me, his eyes twinkling while holding my hand with his firm grip. “I tell you what I think. What I think, I usually I try to do. But at my age, I don’t want to do much. What do you think?”
After I managed to stifle my laugh, I turned serious and asked a question that I immediately wished I could recall. Maybe it’s not the best of ideas to ask anyone battling Alzheimer’s questions concerning recall. “Coach, do you remember standing on the podium that day with the president after the game?” I said, referring to a scene in our movie.
“I remember,” he said with a clear heart and clear mind. And I knew he did remember for that instant. His face soon became a blank screen and I knew his thoughts had traveled to some mysterious place. I wondered if I would ever see him alive again. I get tired of being right all the time.
The healing effects of Bob Livingston’s music on Coach Royal’s Alzheimers so moved our production team, we decided to try it again – and this time film the private concert. We would also film Longhorn players Bob McKay and Mike Campbell, Tom’s twin brother while in Austin.
We arrived to the Royal retirement community in early September and set up in the apartment across the hall from the residence of the Royals. TV Cameras, equipment, lights, cable, wires crammed the one bedroom apartment like a sold out crowd at Darrell K. Royal Stadium.
While we were still setting up, who else but Coach Royal greeted me at the door, grinning broader than I’d ever seen. “He’s been waiting for you all since early this morning,” said Edith. “He’s not in the way is he?” No, I think not.
As Coach Royal entered to take his seat on the sofa, he mumbled something like, “I can just watch today.” I understood the Halloween smile. No interview, no pressure to talk in front of a camera – something that Royal once handled with the ease of dropping a fish hook in a shallow pond. But today, only listen to former players talk football and also hear some music. A recipe for a good day for Darrell K. Royal.
Soon, who I thought was Tom Campbell entered, but then introduced himself as “Mike Campbell.” Whoops, at first glance I could not tell the difference. Then an amazing thing happened. From the sofa, Coach Royal looked up and said in a warm voice, “Hi Mike,” clearly distinguishing Mike from twin brother Tom without difficulty. Coach Royal proceeded to sign several football helmets for Mike. “Never turned me down to sign anything,” later said Mike.
See www.bigshootout.com for several of the songs performed by Bob Livingston and guitarist extraordinaire Bradley Kopp that day. Once again, the music coupled with a few cold beers proved medicinal magic, temporarily releasing the coach from the dark confinement of the dreaded disease.
Austin guitar picker, Bradley Kopp, with Coach Royal
Next – my last visit with Coach Royal.
Later that summer, I returned to Austin to speak to the Royal’s retirement community on my non-fiction World War II book, The Battle of the Bulge: The untold Story of Hofen.
In the month or so since my previous visit, I noticed a decline in the physical and mental condition of Coach Royal – not to a great extent but noticeable just the same. I also detected a more mellow disposition, more at ease, more gentle – Grandpa and childlike simultaneously.
My mind retreated to our initial visit and a conversation with James Street. “You did not want to walk by Coach Royal’s office if you didn’t have to,” said James, sounding like a kid referring to a haunted house at midnight. “He could be a mean S. O. B.” To be sure, someone would run the wishbone before you would find that Darrell Royal again.
Approximately seventy-five residents attended my power point presentation which fell short of the average age of the audience by about ten. The book centers around a controversial war experience of my fathers. While showing a picture of my father, I mentioned that he was from Arkansas.
Suddenly a voice cried out, shattering the silence. “Now you know how I feel! I had to deal with folks from Oklahoma and Arkansas!”
I looked up to see Coach Royal alone on the back row, grinning like a Cheshire cat on a milk raid. I caught a patient grin from Edith in the audience.
Probably only Edith and I understood the meaning of the outburst. Swept by the nostalgic wave of World War II directly into the spirit of combat, Coach Royal was taking on the Hogs and Sooners one more time. After my presentation, Coach approached me smiling what was becoming a very familiar smile. “I sure enjoyed that,” he said, his eyes dancing with delight. Yep the mean S.O.B. was long gone.
Edith Royal had already warned us about Tom Campbell?s infectious sense of humor – the type of guy to harvest laughter from reciting the alphabet. He lived up to his advance billing.
Tom lit up like the Longhorn tower when reflecting about his dad. Coach Mike Campbell served in World War II as a bomber pilot. By all accounts, Coach Campbell was not a man to mess with, especially after punishing the ground with his Red Man chewing tobacco.
No better example of this came during a Longhorn practice. Tom and his brother Mike were rushing the punter from opposite ends of the defensive line. Both brothers dove simultaneously to block the punt but Mike’s helmet smashed Tom in the mouth, knocking out his two front teeth. After Tom discovered his teeth on the practice field, he held them up to his dad, alerting him to the problem; his dad, thru steely eyes and with arms folded across his chest, fired the Red Man to the ground, replying, “do it again.” Translation: let’s run the drill until you get it right. And they did.
Coach Campbell with his twin sons.
With his dad’s rhino-skin toughness in mind, imagine Tom’s reaction when he arrived to his parents’ home one Sunday afternoon only to find his dad in a lengthy discussion on the telephone – mainly listening, saying little. “Finally, I realized that it had to be the mother of a teammate because daddy’s reaction is “yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am, yes, ma’am.”
“And I finally said to myself, this lady is giving my dad an earful about not playing her son. I can’t believe my dad is doing this, said Tom, through a drawl only heard in the South – a blend of the Lone Star state and the Mississippi from his childhood. “Why didn’t he just hang up on her? And he just kept listening till finally he says, ‘Lady, I know that Tom is no damn good, but he’s the best one I’ve got.'” And we all howled and nobody laughed louder than the Royals or Street who surely had heard the story countless times before.
Tom’s sense of humor proved as relentless as the Longhorn defense. His comments concerning whether or not Texas clipped on Street’s touchdown run that made the score 14-8 Hogs. “I was sittin’ on the bench. I wasn’t watchin’. I’d already lost confidence in our offense, so I wasn’t paying any attention. I was waitin’ for something bad to happen to go back into the game, so I never saw it,” said Tom, belching his infectious belly laugh. Or his thoughts when Texas went for two after the touchdown. “It was like a scary movie. I closed my eyes. I was afraid to watch.”
“It was like watching a scary movie. I was too scared to open my eyes.” I now fully understood why James earlier ribbed Tom about the offense carrying the load in the Shoot Out.
More Campbell family humor. “My senior year, I intercepted five passes on national television, including the one against Arkansas and the one against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. My dad threw compliments around like they were manhole covers. He never said anything to me and it kind of disappointed me but now we’re getting ready to get on the bus after the Notre Dame game. He calls me over. And I’m thinking, he’s finally gonna say, boy you had a great career, good interception and so on and he says, “Tom, I don’t know what you’re gonna do with the rest of your life but it ought to be on television.” Once again Tom’s laughter filled the room and we all followed suit.
Don’t take these stories the wrong way about Coach Campbell. Tom and his brother worshiped their dad – and their mom too. “My mom was tougher than my dad,” said Tom. Holy Moly.
Tom’s football fate collided with that of Arkansas receiver John Rees the entire game. It was Tom who asked the referee for a flag on Rees for blocking down field on the first Dicus touchdown. Rees, not known for his blocking prowess, never even brought Tom to the ground with his attempt to block and both were nowhere close to the play. The referee, after much thought and a delayed decision, threw the flag, overturning the touchdown. Many Razorback fans consider it one of the worst calls in history – maybe the most critical play of the game. With that score, the Hogs would have led 21-0 by the third quarter – a tough hill to climb for the run and grind wishbone offense.
Coach Royal Called Astroturf “Taint”
Is it any wonder that Rees ignored Campbell later in the game when Tom asked John if he was having trouble with his footing?it was a miserable day in the early years of Astroturf . By the way, Coach Royal called wet Astroturf taint: taint dry, taint wet.? Adding insult to injury, when Tom made the interception near the end of the game, he literally snatched the ball away from the arms of who else? John Rees.
Campbell twins struggling with slippery AstroTurf.
Tom turned serious when thinking of John after all these years. The Hogs and Horns had a players-only reunion in 2004 in Fayetteville and the event plays an integral part of our film. Players from both teams openly conversed with each other and enjoyed, a remarkable day of fellowship. I can think of no parallel – a Civil War reunion?
Tom did not approach John at the reunion. The two never meet. “I felt a little bit uneasy being around John Rees during the reunion. You know, John, does it still bother you? I don’t know. Is he still bothered by it?” asked Tom, the image of John’s disappointment playing behind his eyes.
Us creative film guys hatched the brilliant plan to interview Tom and John together which both men readily agreed to, but logistics proved too big an obstacle. I want to be there when the two finally meet.
Tom Campbell with granddaughters
during his 2012 Hall of Fame Induction.
With Coach Royal’s well known love of country music in mind, after a day of filming, we brought in Austin music icon Bob Livingston to entertain the Royals and a few other members of the retirement company that wandered by. James Street and Tom Campbell also stayed for the impromptu concert.
Coach Royal’s toughest opponent of all decided to make an appearance only minutes before Bob’s first song. We were all sitting around a table bantering with the coach while waiting on Edith who had left the room temporarily in search of coffee. With Royal leading the way, the conversation centered around the many quality coaches that served under Royal during his head coaching career. “None was better than your daddy though,” said Royal motioning to Tom Campbell with his eyes.
Without warning, a look of grave concern totally smothered the face of Coach Royal. “Where on earth is Edith?” he blurted, his face now the color of white ash. In literally the blink of an eye, the man was lost and confused and it showed.
Thankfully, to the immense relief of her husband and all of us in the room, Edith soon returned but I now had firsthand knowledge of the devastation dealt by such a powerful adversary. Alzheimers had managed to accomplish something that even the pressure packed world of big time college football could not?rattle the unshakable Darrell Royal.
The music visibly soothed the Coach’s battle with Alzheimers. His shoulders relaxed, he became more animated, singing along and smiling, especially when Bob would perform Willie Nelson or Woody Guthrie tunes. Sometime during all this good karma, Coach Royal volunteered that he’d “known Willie since before Trigger had holes.”
After the singing was over, I noticed Coach Royal sitting at a table, his eyes and hands glued to the table while Lost Gonzo Bob Livingston knelt beside Royal, reading the coach’s bio from Wikipedia on Bob’s recently acquired iPhone. Bob read about Coach Royal’s upbringing in Hollis, Oklahoma. The Coach nodded at the table, saying “Yep, that’s right.” Then Bob read about the Coach’s coaching career at Mississippi State and then Canada and Coach would just nod, head down, saying, “That’s right.” Bob reached the part about Coach Royal being the winningest coach in Texas history and once more, Royal, head down, hands planted on the table, said only “That’s right.”
Austin picker, Lost Gonzo Bob Livingston, with Coach Royal
Finally, Coach Royal looked up in amazement and gawked thru his wide eyes at Bob’s cell phone. “They’ve got all that on that little bitty black box?”
Later, Coach left the room, presumably to retire to his own quarters. As Don Stokes and Bill Schwarz were packing up the equipment, I asked Street, an excellent college pitcher and pro prospect, if he ever regretted foregoing baseball after college. Street launched into a lengthy discussion about how the “old man” did not like baseball and encouraged James to start a business career in Austin. Repeatedly, James mentioned “the old man just did not like baseball,” while simultaneously snapping off imaginary curves with his right hand. Each time, James used the word “old man” it was in a reverent manner – an obvious referral to Coach Royal. Suddenly we sensed a presence in the room. Wearing house shoes and holding a cold PBR in one hand, Coach Royal stood before us and had heard the entire Street discussion. James riveted to attention like the kid caught talking in class and said, “Coach, I, uh was just telling them, uh, that you don?t like baseball.”
Time stopped. The air briefly became a tad stuffy for breathing purposes. Royal stared at Street through eyes sharp enough to slice goal posts and said in his now familiar halting cadence, “N-o J-a-m-e-s. I l-i-k-e b-a-s-e-b-a-l-l I j-u-s-t l-i-k-e y-o-u b-e-t-t-e-r.” Then Darrell K. Royal smiled that smile that said so much.
I think James Street arrived slightly before Coach Royal and his wife Edith and I immediately noticed Street’s size – maybe five nine or five ten tops if he stretched to his tip toes. It became a recurring theme; virtually all the players interviewed displayed a shocking lack of size compared to the behemoths of today. Of the approximately 20 players interviewed from both teams, only Jerry Moore, the safety from Arkansas and Bob McKay, the offensive tackle from Texas would qualify as men of above average size.
Maybe not coincidentally, McKay and Moore maintained the longest NFL careers of any of the Shoot Out participants. McKay, 9 years and Moore, 5 years.
The man who never lost a game as the starting quarterback for U. T. wasted no time verifying his reputation as a human filibuster, dealing out non-stop chatter wrapped around a sunny disposition. For reasons obviously based on vapor, I was prepared to meet a prima donna bathing in past glory – wrong by the margin of victory in the Horn’s first nine games that season. Texas supporters – and lord knows there’s a passel of them out there – will delight in knowing Street proved a pure joy to visit with.
James Street never lost as the starting QB running the wishbone for the horns.
Street provided a glimpse of his uncanny ability to think quickly on his feet?a trait essential to a wishbone quarterback since running that offense required a split second decision, based on the defense?s reaction, to either hand off to one of three backs or keep the ball himself. During Street?s interview, Tom Campbell had not arrived yet but James maintained a clear window view of the front yard and soon saw Tom walking toward the front door. During mid-answer to some forgotten question, at precisely the instant Tom entered the room, James reversed his thought pattern the way he would reverse field to avoid a tackle. ?You know,? Street said, seemingly oblivious to Tom?s entrance, ?Really, the offense carried the game the whole time. And I thought we??
?Oh, my God!? Tom blurted out, and loud, his eyes rolling to the ceiling in mock anger. The room erupted into spontaneous joyful laughter.
?Oh boy. You fooled me,? said Tom, who not only started on the defense that day, but made the game saving interception on the Hog?s last drive.
?I didn?t know you were comin in, Tom. I didn?t see you,? said James, retaining his stone faced expression for several beats until his own laughter joined in.
The offense turned the ball over five times during the Shoot Out so needless to say, the defense, by most accounts, saved the day. Like I said, Street could think quick on his feet, or in this case while sitting down.
Street offered one indelible memory of Freddie Steinmark. Freddie, post operation, entered the locker room after a swimming workout. ?So, Freddie,? asked James, never the shy one, noticing one leg protruding from Freddie?s swim suit. ?Is it hard to swim on one leg??
?Heck No. Not bad at all if you don?t mind swimming around in circles,? answered Freddie.
?And that was just his attitude about life, you know,? said James, his smile eliminating the need for our camera lights.
James also offered an introspective thought provoking look at how sports history will judge a person favorably or non-favorably?often for the wrong reason. How would history remember Street if the Longhorns failed to win the Shoot Out? A lesser quarterback? A lesser person?
His case in point?Texas almost missed the extra point that provided the margin of victory. If the game ends in a tie, history is written differently. For starters, since Texas went to the Cotton Bowl the previous year, Arkansas would have played in the Cotton Bowl. Thus, Freddie never gets revenge on Notre Dame for squashing his childhood dream of playing for the Fighting Irish.
Maybe Nixon leaves Fayetteville without crowning Texas or Arkansas national champ? Or crowns both? Or he eventually crowns undefeated Penn State champ which denies Joe Paterno the opportunity to complain for four decades. But James Street now has a blemish on his record?and for a play with him watching from the sidelines!
Paterno complains but Freddie gets satisfaction.
But Donnie Wigginton retrieved a high snap and kicker Happy Feller delivered the ball thru the uprights?barely. And now the rest is history. 15-14 Horns.
Beano Cook’s October eleven passing caused a break in what had previously been a chronological journey. But after only partially covering our Beano segment, the welcome diversion of our young Marine in San Diego throwing out the first pitch in the World Series forced another detour.
Now the passing of the legendary Texas coach Darrell Royal brings yet another delay before we return to a more orderly path. On the afternoon of November 7th, Chris Plonsky, the Women’s Athletic Director at U. T., mentioned by phone that both Universities anxiously awaited the film’s release. No great surprise here since The Big Shoot Out: The Life and Times of 1969 should showcase both universities under the bright spotlight of the national media.
“We’ve already lost Beano Cook. I’d like to see the film released before we lose anyone else – like Coach Royal,” I said, then wished I could reclaim the words. We lost the Coach a few hours later.
I first met Darrell and Edith Royal in June of 2010 when we arrived in Austin for a day of filming at the Royal’s retirement community. We made all arrangements through Edith and it seemed important to Edith that we also film James Street, the quarterback of The Big Shoot Out on the same day – a foreshadow of the parental relationship between the Royals and Street.
We set up in a vacant but furnished home on the grounds of the retirement community. Green grass everywhere. Blue skies above with nary a dimple of clouds. The air smelled like fresh clothes on the line – all similar in feel to Fayetteville. Also a familiar sensation of butterflies bouncing off my insides, reminding me of my nervousness.
Any similarities to Fayetteville ended when Coach Royal and Edith arrived. The football gods may have blessed the Longhorns more on 12/6/69 but the gods rationing out the fountain of youth had clearly been more generous with Coach Broyles. While the Arkansas coach had walked rapidly with large strides of purpose, Coach Royal, his shoulders pinched down, moved in short shuffle steps – Grandpa’s walk. Coach Broyles hurried from our interview to catch a plane for a round of golf at Augusta and since it’s no secret that Royal loved his golf as much as Broyles, as we met, I extended my hand, asking, “Have you played any golf lately?”
Predictably, the man’s grip was strong, betraying his eighty-six years. “No, I’ve had to give it up,” he said softly, his voice curling around the vowels slowly, as if spelling the words internally before allowing them into the world. “Bad neck,” he continued, his clipped reply a pattern for the day – short direct answers – also the opposite of Broyles. The man was smiling but the smile was saying many things, including that the warnings were true – that one minute he would possess remarkable recall and the next, the cruel disease of Alzheimer’s was shrinking his world the way gravity was shrinking his frame. Immediately, I knew that few similarities would exist between the Royal and Broyles interview.
Broyles had conversed openly, without restraint; Royal would prove more guarded – a man aware of his limitations but also aware of his pride – determined to plow thru the day with dignity. He would compete with his buddy, Coach Broyles, one last time. Regardless of his obvious handicap, he would not embarrass himself. A man can contain a lot in his smile.
Despite the presence of Alzheimer’s lurking on the sidelines, Coach Royal’s abrupt answers, if anything, enhanced his famous dry wit – and sooner rather than later. “One point makes a difference. We had the one so we don’t mind this interview,” were his first recorded words.
When asked if it concerned him that Billy Graham strolled to the Arkansas sideline after delivering the pre-game invocation, Royal replied in a totally deadpan expression, “I think God was neutral.” Or, when questioned what he’d do with a life mulligan, he blurted without the slightest hesitation, “Go back and play the ones over that we lost.”
Broyles and Royal were close as kin but let the record show that the two men reacted differently to the expectations placed upon both universities in 1969. Broyles admitted that with each victory the pressure mounted. Broyles and Arkansas desperately wanted to remain undefeated – to live up to their end of the bargain and fulfill ABC’s hope of a national championship game attended by President Nixon in celebration of college football’s 100th season. “When you haven’t lost, you just wanna keep going,” said Royal simply, when responding to the same question.
The man cold turn up the serious mode in a nano-second. “Doesn’t make a damn who thought he was in or not,” he practically snapped, referring to the controversial catch by Arkansas receiver John Rees that set up the Hog’s first score. Many Texas fans thought Rees made a great catch – but out of bounds. “The guy in the stripes called it. And they were down there, and they were on the call,” he continued without any hint of a smile. I quickly decided to skip any questions concerning the other two controversial calls or non-calls. The blocking downfield penalty on the Hogs – John Rees in the first half that negated a Montgomery to Dicus touchdown pass. And the cry of clip to no avail by the Razorbacks on James Street’s long touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Though both of those calls went the Longhorns way, is there any doubt that Coach Royal learned early on not to lose sleep fretting over the official’s calls.
The Reese catch You be the judge.
Serious managed to nudge next to anger when I brought up the Broyles revelation that both men had admitted to once stealing each other’s signals. (See 7/31/12 entry)
Except I used the word “spy” instead of Broyles’ term of “stealing signals.” Bad call. Royal had once accused Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer of “spying” on Longhorn practices and I think the very word triggered an unpleasant flashback. “Well, let me straighten out the word spy. We watched the film and noticed it in the film. But no, there was no spying.” I could hear the irritation in his words.
Royal, who played college football at O. U., felt no internal allegiance struggle between the school where he played and the school where he coached. “I’ve been in Texas forty something years. I was in Oklahoma four. Not hard to figure out.” ‘Nuff said.
Students of Longhorn football already know that Coach Mike Campbell was Darrell Royal’s long time defensive coach and best friend. These same fans know that Coach Campbell’s twin sons, Tom and Mike started on the ’69 Longhorn defense – a remarkable accomplishment since both were walk-ons and walk-ons seldom see action for the mighty Texas Longhorns. Royal’s feud with Oklahoma Coach Barry Switzer is also well documented.
Our interview with Tom Campbell later that day uncovered something that had stayed under the Longhorn radar for years. Coach Royal retired from coaching in 1976, the same year as Broyles, partly because he felt he would struggle in the recruiting wars with Switzer and O. U. for the African American athlete. Oklahoma had recruited black players since the fifties. Texas did not offer their first football scholarship to an African American, Julius Whittier, until 1968. And it’s reasonable to assume Switzer and his staff would regularly remind the recruits and their families of the Longhorns unfamiliarity in dealing with the culture and needs of the African American athlete.
Coach Royal told his pal, Campbell, that he would not have retired if he’d known UT would pass on his recommendation to hire Campbell and instead hire Fred Akers. Akers accepting the job did not endear himself to Royal, resulting in a long time chilly relationship between the two coaches. Perhaps ironic or perhaps fitting, Akers played his college football at Arkansas. Only recently did Royal reportedly acknowledge Akers at a U. T. function – a sign that the Alzheimer’s strangle hold on Royal was so total and complete, he could no longer remember his disappointment with Akers for accepting the job.
Broyles and Royal in 1976. Both retired after the season.
It’s about now that I reflected on the irony of Royal one upping his buddy Broyles on December 6, 1969 since the ball seemed to bounce more Broyles’ way afterwards. Broyles ruled the University of Arkansas with an iron hand for half a century and his reign of power brought financial success along for the ride. Broyles also remained in the public eye by serving with Keith Jackson as the top ABC college broadcast team for years.
In comparison to Broyles, Royal dropped out of the spotlight and settled into the relatively obscure and quiet life of retirement in Austin. He lived his last years in a pristine Austin retirement community but it was hardly the image of wealth. In his last month of life, much of his prized Longhorn memorabilia was offered for sale. I wondered after the announcement, if financial reason forced the sale. And finally the ultimate low blow dealt to a parent – the loss of not one but two children to Austin traffic accidents in 1973 and 1982 respectively.
But back to the race card. During our time with the Royals, Edith made it clear as Longhorn pride that her husband would have recruited African Americans earlier but the Board of Regents would not allow it. There’s a reference in the Bible concerning a man’s heart returning to the innocence of a child – and no one tells the truth like a child. I sensed that innocence with Royal that day – a possible indicator that the fourth quarter was drawing to a close. I saw no signs of the whispered rumors of racism – rumors possibly spread north of the Texas border during recruiting wars by the Longhorn’s biggest rival. His remarks that day on his first black scholarship athlete Julius Whittier, “There was no race problem because of guys like Julius Whittier. And we opened it up to (to African Americans) because we wanted to.” Earl Campbell, the Heisman trophy winner from U. T. and an African American, confirmed my thoughts when he told the media after Coach Royal’s passing that he’d “Lost one of my best friends.”
Julius Whittier received UT’s first African American football scholarship in1968.
John Richardson received Arkansas’ first African
American football scholarship also in1968.
It should come as no revelation that Coach Royal failed to appreciate the more demonstrative or “showboating” style of play sometimes exhibited in today’s college game. “I call it side play,” he said. “There’s just not a place for it in football.”
And yes, maybe he longed for the good old days when comparing the style of play now vs. then. “It wasn’t cut your throat attitude back then, and it didn’t have a darn thing to do with how they competed against each other. They didn’t have any trouble makin’ up their mind which side they were on,” he continued thru a chuckle. “They just respected the sportsmanship of the opponents. They had it and I can’t explain it,” he said with pride when later discussing the success of so many of these same players’ lives post football.
I had to inquire about the story that Freddie Steinmark, after losing his leg, asked if he could try out for kicker. “It was during that bed time, he was thinkin’ about it,” said Royal smiling at the memory. “And I would say ‘sure, if you’re better than the other kicker. But if you’re not, well, the other guy’s gonna kick.'”
Coach Royal sat thru the entire day of interviews – his wife Edith, players James Street, Tom Campbell and Ranch Peschel in that order. All the while, Royal displayed the rapt attention of a kid watching his first college football game. I only remember one off camera remark that occurred during a filming delay. “Let’s get moving. We’re burnin’ daylight,” said Coach but not in an unpleasant manner. We all moved a bit faster.
It did not take the crystal ball of Beano Cook to determine Edith Royal spearheaded the appearance of her husband in our film, in part, to properly preserve the legacy of her husband, and especially to set the record straight concerning the integration or lack of regarding U. T. football. “Tom Campbell will tell you about his dad (Coach Mike Campbell) wanting to recruit a black player here in Austin and he couldn’t. Wasn’t even allowed to talk to him because of the Legislature,” she said matter-of-factly, reiterating her earlier sentiments that her husband would have integrated the Longhorn football program earlier if allowed to.
1969 Texas Longhorns – The last all white national championship team.
The 1969 Arkansas Razorbacks featured all white players as well.
Edith Royal offered a much more emotional reply than her husband when asked what she would change if she could do it all over again. “I wouldn’t change a thing,” she said thru a hearty laugh. Despite her eighty plus years and change, she wore the expression of a child. Her petite frame and Beatle haircut-though snow while in color-only enhanced her youthful image. “I was born during the Dust Bowls and our farms blew away and it was a hard life growing up,” she said, her memories now at the crossroad of her past and present. “And yet, I enjoyed every minute of it. It didn’t seem hard to me because everybody went thru that.”
Chunks of my own youth flashed before my eyes. A six-year-old boy in a red cowboy hat and a singled holstered six shooter with a fake pearl handle. A twelve year old playing his first little league game for the Hutchins Kittens. My first prom date, majestically walking down her stairwell, her long blond hair throwing off light, her blue mini-dress exposing cheerleader legs. Different memories though the same.
“But I look back at Darrell’s life and my life and then to be where we are today with all the attention and all the friends,” said Edith, her words returning me to adulthood. “And I look at the stadium sometimes and I think,” she paused, allowing her thoughts and misty eyes to simmer. “They didn’t name a cotton patch after me,” said Edith, her voice returning to full strength. “Look where I am today – out of that cotton patch,” she concluded, giving me a heartfelt look that lasted all day.
Next: James Street
Before delving into our memorable meeting with the unforgettable Beano, I must mention the recent pre-game TV broadcast of game three of the World Series. Sunken into my den sofa and buried in thought, the TV commentary went by with no more notice than drive by scenery. Barely above a whisper it seems, announcer, Joe Buck refers to Balboa Naval Hospital. My internal antenna rises a tad. I know that place, having visited the grounds in January to meet several Marine amputees from the Iraq and Afghanistan war. Now I faintly hear Buck mention something about a triple amputee from Balboa Hospital throwing out the game’s first pitch.
Whoops! There was only one triple amputee at Balboa that day! (See the diary entry of February 20, 2012). My eyes locked on the television, dragging along my ears for company. Wearing his formal military uniform, USMC Corporal Nick Kimmel stood tall with Barry Zito of the Giants at home plate, sporting newly acquired prosthetic legs; his empty left sleeve dangled loosely at his side – still no prosthetic arm. As Corporal Kimmel’s smile filled the screen, my brain peeled back a recent chunk of history to January 19, the day I briefly met the young marine – who wore a vastly different expression that day.
With a dark mood following like a shadow, Kimmel’s dad pushed his wheel chair into the courtyard at Balboa. No prosthetics yet for the young Corporal. Corporal Kimmel acknowledged Jack Lyon, a U.S.M.C. Vietnam vet and mentor to these wounded warriors, with a stare sharp enough to slice you into pieces.
The whole war was right there in that stare. What did those eyes see? A buddy or buddies so full of life one instant and then incredibly not alive the next? His own limbs separated from his body? It was a stare that lasted in my mind, a stare yelling at me to record my thoughts.
I worried about Corporal Kimmel that day, fearing for his life. Captain Jack would not allow me to post that in the diary entry on the Shoot Out website. What if the young Marine, wounded both in body and spirit, read my words?
To be sure, Nick Kimmel’s eyes leaked his pain that day in the courtyard but now on the television, his eyes seemed repaired, almost dancing with glee – maybe a recognition that you can’t change what can’t be changed. Maybe the eyes said he enjoyed being alive.
Corporal Kimmel rocked back on one artificial leg and let the ball fly to home plate with his one God given limb. On release, Kimmel teetered a bit; Giant’s pitcher Zito reached out to prevent the fall, but Kimmel righted himself on his own accord. Both were grinning like a fool.
The phone rang. “Are you watching TV?” Captain Jack asked.
“Hell yeah, I see it.” I could hear the tears of joy in Jack’s own eyes – the kind of joy God had in mind when he invented Joy.
As Captain Jack pointed out, it was amazing that Kimmel kept his balance without the weight of a left arm to stabilize him. “It was clearly pure guts and a lot of God that pulled this off,” said Jack, wonder in his tone.
Turns out, Zito would visit the wounded soldiers at Balboa when the Giants were playing the Padres, ruining the prototype of rich spoiled pro athletes. Captain Jack was usually there, counseling and helping any of the amputees any way possible.
One conversation between Jack and Kimmel after a Zito visit. Captain Jack: “So you like baseball?” Corporate Kimmel: “Yeah, I had a baseball scholarship until I joined the Marines.” Captain Jack: “Yeah, well how’s that working out?”
Humor comes from tragedy. Both Marines, one old from the Vietnam war and one young from the Afghanistan war, laughed, proving good stories can link the past to the present.
On the left, Captain Jack Lyon today.
Captain Jack credits Zito’s visits with helping repair the life of Corporal Kimmel. Ditto for Captain Jack and many of the staff at Balboa, I’m sure.
Miracles can happen. That’s all I’m saying.
With the recent loss of Beano Cook on 10/11/12, it seems only fitting to take a break from Fayetteville and travel to Pittsburgh, the sight of our visit with Beano which occurred later that summer of 2010. After a quick internet search, I tracked down the TV icon at an ESPN affiliate in Pittsburg, leaving my number and the purpose of my call.
The return call did not come so quick. I left word several times. I began to worry. We needed Carroll “Beano” Cook for our film like Darrell Royal needed Steve Worster to run the wishbone.
After all, it was Beano who, at the request of his boss Roone Arledge of ABC, stirred up some Houdini like magic in the spring of 1969 by predicting that Texas and Arkansas would both remain undefeated and play for number one in December. No computers – just Beano pouring over every college schedule in the land six months before the season started; and by then asking the schools to re-schedule their October matchup in December, Beano delivered on a silver platter to ABC the “Game of the Century.”
Beano predicts dram match-up of Horns and Hogs in August
After a couple of weeks of silence from Beano, I answered my cell phone, noticing an unfamiliar area code. “Mike,” soared the crusty voice into the nearby space, “this is Beano Cook.” Never again would I use the word silence in the same sentence when referring to Beano. Beano verified his reputation as one lively character quicker than Nixon displayed his trademark wave and flashed his Halloween grin when entering Razorback stadium.
Beano continued, spitting words like machine gun fire. “Blankety blank Mike, I wish I could help you but my health’s not good. I’ve got diabetes. I just don’t get around too good. I’m almost eighty. Blankety blank. I’m sorry, I’m too old.”
Beano managed to make this sound humorous. Fact is, most everything Beano said reminded me of Rodney Dangerfield delivering one liners. Later, when we met face to face, a lovable but grumpy Captain Kangaroo came to mind.
When Beano stopped talking long enough to come up for air, I finally blurted, “Beano, you’re a youngster compared to Coach Broyles and Coach Royal.” Both were 87.
His reply came back faster than a high speed tennis volley. “Okay, Mike, blankety blank. If you’ll come to Pittsburgh, we can do the interview in the studio that I do my weekly show for ESPN. But don’t give out my cell phone number, okay?”
We booked our flight to Pittsburgh.
Next-Our meeting with Beano and after that, with the recent passing of Darrel Royal, we’ll continue our break from Fayetteville and discuss our time with the legendary Coach.