This Day In History: November 29, 1997

November 29, 1997 The legendary Eddie Robinson coaches his last game

On November 29, 1997, Grambling State University football coach Eddie Robinson coaches his last college football game. (Grambling’s Tigers played the Southern University Jaguars at the Superdome in New Orleans; Southern won, 30-7.) He’d been coaching at Grambling, a historically black college near Shreveport, for 55 seasons. His career record–408-165-15–was the second-winningest in college football. (The recordholder, John Gagliardi of St. John’s University in Minnesota, won 443 games. He broke Robinson’s record in 2003.) Robinson’s Grambling team sent 220 players to the NFL and four to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “Eddie Robinson molded as many great athletes as he recruited,” a former player for a rival team remembered. “If you were good enough to play for Grambling, you were good enough to play in the NFL.”

In 1941, Robinson was working days at a feed mill and nights on an ice truck when his sister told him that Grambling–then known as the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute–was looking for a football coach. Robinson impressed the college president and got the job. In his first season, the team went 3-5; in his second, they were undefeated and un-scored-upon. At a black college in the segregated South, there wasn’t much money for extras, so Robinson did everything there was to do: He painted lines on the field; made sandwiches before away games because the team couldn’t eat at Jim Crow restaurants; and once sent his entire team to help his star running backs pick cotton so they would be done in time to play in the championship game. (They were, and Grambling won.)

D. K. Smith

D. K. Smith

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