Darrell Royal's Alzheimer's Legacy as Important as His Football Legacy
We’re right in the heart of college football season. What team is going to win the national title? Can Notre Dame finish as Number 1? Who’s going to get the Heisman Trophy?
But as football fans cheer for their teams and debate all of these points, Alzheimer’s advocates should be taking heed of another college football legend who recently passed away and the legacy he left beyond the gridiron. Darrel K. Royal, the former head coach of the University of Texas Longhorn football team, pioneer of the wishbone offense running game, colorful quipster, and namesake of UT’s stadium, passed away Nov. 7 from cardiovascular disease. Royal also had Alzheimer’s disease.
Let’s first look at Royal’s football career. As a player, Royal received all-American honors at the University of Oklahoma. In 1956, Royal became the head football coach at the University Texas at the age of 32. He previously had coached at Mississippi State and Washington. ESPN reported that during 23 years as head coach, Royal never had a losing season. He won 11 Southwest Conference titles, 10 Cotton Bowl championships as well as national championships in 1963 and 1969 when UT had perfect 11-0 seasons. UT also was a co-national championship in 1970.
“Darrell was one of the greatest football coaches our sport has known,” Frank Broyles, the former coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks whose wife also lost a battle to Alzheimer’s in 2004, told the Austin American-Statesman. “His record and many accomplishments speak for themselves, but his influence on college football, the University of Texas and the impact he had in the lives of thousands of young men who played for him is impossible to fully measure. In the final years of his life, Darrell faced his battle with Alzheimer’s with the same courage and dignity he displayed throughout his career.”
Royal’s courage included making his diagnosis of Alzheimer’s public and taking a stand to fight the disease. Royal and his wife, Edith, and their supporters helped to create the Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s. In her testimony before the Texas Legislature’s Special Interim Joint Committee on Alzheimer’s Disease, Mrs. Royal said, “This private fund to advance Alzheimer’s research in Texas is an important legacy – as important as football – that we lend the strength of Darrell’s name to this incredible group of prominent Texans all of whom want to help in Darrell’s honor to fund research that will not only cure this awful disease but bring the scientific spotlight to Texas.” The Royals even put 250 items of their personal and sports memorabilia up recently with part of the proceeds going to support the fund.
The research fund is focused on research and care for Texans, with the goal of curing Alzheimer’s disease within a lifetime. The fund also will expand research into mild cognitive impairment and to expand care and access for citizens of Texas. “The hope is that, through this research, preventative and treatment strategies aimed at combatting the epidemic of AD will come to light,” the fund’s website states.
"The sad fact is that most everyone in our state is touched by this disease and the Darrell Royal family is no exception," Edith Royal said. "The DKR Research Fund represents a commitment to excellence in Alzheimer's research and care for Texans, the nation and the world. I am grateful for the opportunity to create this legacy for my husband, and for the incredible group of prominent Texans who want to join us in this endeavor."
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Bohls, K. (2012). Royal leaves a legacy of championships, character. Austin American Statesman.
ESPN. (2012). Darrell Royal dies at age 88.
Goldstein, R. (2012). Darrell, Royal, football coach at Texas, dies at 88. New York Times.
Darrell K. Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. (2012). Website.