Eddie Robinson calls them all “my boys,” even though many of them are grandfathers.
A lot of them went on to be NFL stars, and all of them helped Robinson put together the most victories ever for a coach.
“I’ve had a good bunch of boys here,” Robinson said. “I’ve tried to encourage them to excel. I tell them they have to have a commitment to being the best to get anywhere in life.”
And get somewhere they have.
More than 200 of them made it to the NFL. Willie Brown, Buck Buchanan and Willie Davis made it to the NFL Hall of Fame. Seven of them were No. 1 draft picks. Doug Williams was a Super Bowl MVP.
Grambling athletic director Fred Hobdy played for Robinson, as did six of his seven assistants this season.
Then there are the doctors, the lawyers, the businessmen, the teachers and others who left football behind for successful careers.
“Playing for Eddie was the greatest experience I ever had and I’ve had some great experiences,” said Tank Younger, the first Grambling player to make it to the NFL, signing with the Los Angeles Rams in 1949. “Before Eddie, I really don’t know that I had a goal in life. He emphasized setting a goal and getting ahead.”
Younger, 63, played in the NFL for 10 years and retired from the Rams organization on June 30 after 46 years in the league.
For years, Younger said, the players called Robinson “Mule.”
“That’s because he worked us like mules,” Younger said. “That hasn’t changed. You watch practice now and he still works them like mules.”
That’s something they all remember.
“I tell you what, one thing that wasn’t a problem when I came to the pros was getting used to the work, ” said Derrick Ned, who plays for the New Orleans Saints. “Coach Robinson taught us you pay a price for winning.”
The work and Robinson’s little chats on everything from the importance of an education to the meaning of life and the importance of playing hard stick in his players’ minds.
“He had some speeches that had me ready to play, ready to do anything,” said Jake Reed of the Minnesota Vikings. “One that really sticks out in my mind is he used to tell us that you can’t go out there and be a toothless tiger. He said when you’re a toothless tiger they can put a steak in your mouth and pull it right out. That’s one of the things that sticks in your mind.”
Many of those players, including Younger, were at Grambling Saturday watching Robinson earn win No. 400, beating Mississippi Valley State.
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