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Former Grambling Quarterbacks Honor Fallen Coach

BY NICK DERISO
THE NEWS STAR

SHREVEPORT — Two of Eddie Robinson's most famous former pupils gave the bandwagon to establish a museum in his honor a forceful push on Sunday.

The James Harris and Doug Williams Foundation donated $10,000 in an emotional outpouring of support for the fallen Grambling State coach, who died in April at age 88.

Robinson's wife Doris and son Eddie Jr. accepted the gift as part of ceremonies to kick off the foundation's annual celebrity benefit golf tournament in Shreveport. Governor-appointed museum board member John Belton was also on hand.

"I'm just happy to be able to accept this donation on behalf of the museum and my father," Robinson Jr. said. "Doug and Shack are guys that have meant so much to Grambling, and to our family. There's no telling where this thing can go now."

Robinson retired nine years ago after 57 seasons at Grambling as the winningest football coach in college history with 408 wins. A museum in his honor was first proposed in 1999 — two years after Robinson left the bench at Grambling and several before the onset of the Alzheimer's-related symptoms that ultimately led to his death.

Louisiana's Bond Commission then approved $1.3 million in funding — the first state dollars ever allocated to the project — in early May. That came just weeks after a proposal to house the exhibits in the former women's gym on Grambling's campus received final approval from the university's oversight board.

The involvement of Harris and Williams, two of Robinson's most famous protégés, couldn't be more important in sustaining that momentum, Robinson Jr. said.

Harris, a Monroe native, played for Robinson — and was his son's teammate — in the 1960s after a standout career locally at Carroll High. Williams would become a Heisman Trophy candidate for Robinson a decade later.

Between them, they helped Grambling to six Southwestern Athletic Conference crowns.
Harris went on to become the first black to be drafted into the NFL as a quarterback, the first to start a pro season, and then a playoff game. Williams was the first black passer to start a Super Bowl, the first — and still only — one to win the game and to collect most valuable player honors.

Harris is now the Jacksonville Jaguars' vice president of player personnel, while Williams — who succeeded Robinson as coach at Grambling — now serves as a personnel executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The duo had previously used funds from this golf event to support local charities like the Boys and Girls Club. But both recognized an opportunity to get behind the Robinson Museum effort well in advance of these long-delayed moves by the state of Louisiana.

"It's a no brainer," Williams said. "When we talked about this year's event — and this was long before Coach passed — we said this is a good opportunity to help them get a head start."

Robinson's death in April, nevertheless, served as an important reminder of his contributions for scores of Americans who might have forgotten — or maybe never even knew.

"The world had a chance to really understand who Coach Robinson was — and what his legacy was all about," Williams said. "With Eddie Robinson out there for everybody to see, people found out that he was no ordinary football coach. He was about more than winning 400-something games. This museum keeps that going."

 

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The Eddie G. Robinson Museum is a landmark that officially recognizes the outstanding contributions to the state of Louisiana, the nation, the world and the game of football made by Coach Eddie G. Robinson.  - more