|Grambling says goodbye to Eddie Robinson|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 12 April 2007 16:38|
GRAMBLING, La. (AP) -Willie Davis was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 1956. He was drafted by the Army, too, and that took precedence.|
When he finally arrived in Cleveland in 1959, his new teammates kept asking him about his college career. Where was Grambling State they wanted to know.
``I called Coach finally,'' Davis remembered at former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson's funeral on Wednesday. ``I said, 'Coach, nobody knows where Grambling is.' And he said 'Don't worry, they will.'''
Robinson's words were proven true when 5,000 people turned out for his funeral at the little rural north Louisiana school he made famous. The funeral wrapped up three days of mourning that stretched across the state from Memorial Hall at the state Capitol in Baton Rouge to Memorial Garden, a cemetery two miles from the little football field where he and his players made history.
Robinson died last week at 88.
Former players turned out by the hundreds, including dozens of former NFL stars and Hall of Famers. There were also politicians, power brokers and everyday people who had been touched by Robinson during his 57-year career.
``Coach didn't just prepare us for football, he prepared us for life,'' Hall of Famer Willie Brown said.
The 26 pallbearers included at least 15 former NFL players, some of the more than 200 Robinson sent to that league.
``It feels like the football team is getting ready for a road trip,'' said Gary ``Big Hands'' Johnson, who played nine years in the NFL. ``I almost expect Coach to start rounding us up for the bus.''
The crowd in the assembly center also included U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Sen. Landrieu presented Robinson's widow, Doris, a proclamation passed by the Senate and an American Flag that flew over the nation's Capitol.
``When he walked on that field in 1941, it wasn't flat, it wasn't even, it was slanted up sharply,'' Landrieu said. ``It's not level yet, but because of his life it's getting there and we all are beneficiaries of that.''
Robinson took over at Grambling State in 1941, when the school was the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute and strict segregation ruled the South. As he built the program into one of the most successful, he opened opportunities for the young men he coached.
Richard Lapchick, the director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, wrote a biography of Robinson.
``He loved an America that wouldn't allow him to buy a ticket to a game at LSU when he was a young boy, yet had him lay in state in the Capitol in that same city,'' Lapchick said.
Following the eulogy, Robinson's great-grandson, 9-year-old Eddie Robinson IV, rang one of the coach's old cowbells, lofting it over his head and shaking it vigorously. Then the Grambling Band played the school fight song one final time for Robinson as his former players carried the coffin from the building.
``As we say goodbye to coach Eddie Robinson today, I know God is saying hello to him,'' said Charlie Joiner, now a wide receivers coach with the Kansas City Chiefs.
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