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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Darrell Royal: An Oklahoma legend, too

The man was disheveled—his hair was unkempt, his tie yanked down, dirt was smeared on his white shirt, and sweat glistened on his face. He excused himself from the throng of reporters and went behind the locker room and vomited.

The emotion of defeating his former mentor had churned Darrell Royal’s stomach, yet he composed himself to enjoy the victory. Texas had beaten Oklahoma, 15-14, in 1958, ending the Sooners’ six-game win streak in the series. Royal, in his second year as the Texas coach, had defeated his former coach Bud Wilkinson.

“Let’s don’t put this thing on a personal basis between us and Oklahoma,” Royal told reporters after he returned to the locker room. “I don’t like to see Bud Wilkinson unhappy. The game was hard fought as hell, and, boy, we’re happy now.”


Royal was a former OU star player under Wilkinson in the late 1940s. The Longhorns had defeated the Sooners in 1958 with the help of a two-point conversion, the first year the two-point rule was implemented in college football. Ironically, Wilkinson was part of the rules committee that voted in favor of the new rule.

“I obviously wasn’t very satisfied with my vote,” Wilkinson told reporters after the Texas loss.

Royal did not care for the new rule even though he ordered it after Texas’ first touchdown to take an 8-0 lead.

“I still don’t like it even though it enabled us to win today,” he said. “It’s unfair to the coaches.”

The Sooners roared back and held a 14-8 lead until Texas scored with 3:50 remaining and kicked the conversion, which was worth just one point.

A Sooner bred who became a Texas legend died Nov. 7 at the age of 88. Many believe he was a traitor when he took the Longhorn coaching job in 1957, yet he endeared himself as a Sooner football player.

Royal was born in Hollis, Okla., on July 6, 1924. He lettered for Wilkinson from 1946 to 1949. He was a star on both sides of the ball and on special teams. He intercepted 18 passes in his career, more than any other Sooner. He stole 14 passes his first two seasons alone.

As a quarterback, he led the Sooners to an undefeated 10-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking in 1949. He passed for 509 yards and ran for 189 that year. Oklahoma won back-to-back conference titles (1948 and 1949) with Royal at the helm.

Royal lost only once in 16 starts behind center—a 20-17 loss to Santa Clara in the ’48 season opener. He completed 73 of 167 career passes for 1,130 yards, tossed 13 TDs and 15 interceptions that year. Royal passed only twice in OU’s 42-0 win over Kansas State in 1947, and both passes were touchdown strikes. He also scored two TDs, one on a 96-yard punt return, against the Wildcats. Five games later, he returned another punt 73 yards for a TD in a 60-7 win over Kansas.

Royal returned 35 punts for an average of 15.71 yards per return in his career. He also punted 157 times and averaged 38.45 yards per kick. One of his punts went 81 yards against Oklahoma A&M in 1948.

Although he never scored a touchdown on an interception return, he did return a fumble for the first touchdown in a 27-9 win over Iowa State in 1947.

Royal was named All-American and to the all-Big Seven conference first team in 1949. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in 1992 and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 as the head coach at Texas.

He led the Longhorns to three national championships (1963, 1969 and 1970). The 1970 title was split with Nebraska, as Texas got the most votes in the coaches’ poll.

In his 20 seasons at UT, Royal posted a record of 167-47-5 at Texas, which included 109-27-2 in the Southwest Conference. He won 11 SWC titles and led the 'Horns to 16 bowl games (8-7-1).

In 1996, the Longhorns’ stadium was named Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in his honor. A stadium in Texas named for a Sooner.