Coach Eddie Robinson is thought by many, including me, to be the best college football coach to ever coach the game. He Was the Martin Luther King of Football by Denny Dressman sheds light on the life and times of Robinson, coach of the Grambling State University Tigers.Coach Rob, as he was affectionately called, may not have been the Martin Luther King of football. Instead he was someone who took tough circumstances and made major gains in the lives of his players, children, students and country.
Coach Rob thought he lived in the greatest country, even though most of his life was spent in segregated situations. He was a proud man who knew that he was put on this earth to shape the lives of young men.
As detailed in the book, Coach Rob was many things to many people. He was the beloved husband to Doris, who dutifully cared for him as long as she could toward the end of his career and life. It was evident to all who knew them-they were in love.
There was no state-of-the art training equipment for his players, so Rob used makeshift equipment to train them. He was a hero to the African American community.
He was a man who knew that in order to allow his players to make a mark in the civil rights struggle was not to have them participate in sit-ins. It was for them to win football games. GSU traveled the U.S., and left their mark everywhere they went.
The players were taught to be “men among men.” Robinson taught them to show the world that there was nothing they couldn’t do, even in the face of adversity.
The book is a wonderful tapestry of the highs and lows of Robinson’s life. Dressman vividly illustrates that Coach Robinson was before his time.
The number of people who were willing to give interviews about their encounters with Coach Rob is a testament to his character as a man.
At the end of his career, Coach Rob and the other coaches of the Southwestern Athletic Conference saw their players being recruited by the larger, more financially affluent schools, and SWAC’s influence becoming a footnote in the world of college athletics.
Dressman does not make Robinson out to be a god; he instead allows him to be what he was-a strong American man. This is an insightful book about a man and his times in the country he called the greatest in the world.
Maricia D. C. Johns is a journalist, poet, editor, motivational speaker and educator. She can be reached at johnswriteme.net.