March, 20 2023
Breaking Barriers: How Hall of Fame Coach Eddie Robinson Forever Impacted the Game
"I've learned more about what they meant to me and what they meant to the game. I never won a
game -- they did. You learn from every player because they're not the same."
- Eddie Gay Robinson Sr.
Victory, history, stories, and lore – the kind of legends – surround Grambling State University head football coach, Eddie Robinson. A man whose legacy as a man is bigger than the game itself.
Famous for ringing a bell at 6:30 a.m., seven days a week to wake up his players, Coach Robinson was focused on leading his players to greatness on and off the field. His trailblazing lessons extended far beyond the locker room, gridiron and classroom, as he wanted to ensure his players were ready to face the world and positively impact their communities, with or without enjoying the success of a professional football career.
Coach Robinson single handedly crashed through barriers in professional football by providing opportunities for athletes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to become prominent figures in the league. He coached over 200 players that went on to the American Football League, National Football League, and Canadian Football League during his career. Four of the players he coached have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame – Buck Buchanan (KC Chiefs), Willie Brown (Oakland Raiders), Charlie Joiner (Houston Oilers), and five-time World Champion, Willie Davis (Green Bay Packers).
Robinson also coached James Harris, the first African-American quarterback in modern professional football history to start at QB in a season opener. College Football Hall of Fame member Doug Williams (class of 2001) also played for Eddie while at Grambling. Williams was named Super Bowl XXII MVP while playing with the Washington Redskins. Other members of the College Football Hall of Fame who played for Coach Robinson are Buck Buchanan, Gary Johnson and Paul “Tank” Younger.
Eddie Robinson finished his career with a total of 408 victories, while spending a large majority of his coaching career in the pre-civil rights era. Never complaining, he possessed a smile and a determination that few could rival. Though the numbers tell an impressive story, they only scratch the surface of Robinson’s impact and commitment to equality on and off the field. Without his efforts to equalize all players in the NFL, we may have never seen legends like Walter Payton, Jerry Rice or Michael Strahan, all products of HBCUs.
The Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame is excited to celebrate Coach Eddie Robinson’s 100th birthday during Black History Month with a special event to commemorate his life and contributions. On Monday, February 18 at 5:00 p.m., join us at the Hall for a reception and interactive panel discussion on Eddie’s impact on the game. For more information, click here.