AUSTIN, Texas — When No. 19 Texas takes the field on Saturday against Iowa State, the Longhorns will be paying tribute to former coach Darrell Royal with helmet stickers bearing his “DKR” initials and the first play on offense, which will be run from the wishbone formation Royal introduced to major college football in 1968.
Royal died this week at age 88, and the school wants to honor the coach who won two national championships, a share of a third and 11 Southwest Conference titles from 1957 to 1976.
“He built the foundation that we’re working off of today,” Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said. “He took a program that was struggling, and took it to new heights ... Helped build the university. Helped brand the university.”
It will be an emotional day for Texas coach Mack Brown, who was very close to Royal and often talked about their friendship and the mentor’s role Royal had in his life. Royal was influential in Texas hiring Brown in 1997.
In a statement this week, Brown said he and his wife Sally considered Darrell and Edith Royal their “closest of friends.”
“I lost my dad when I was 54 and coach filled a real void in my life and treated me like family,” said Brown, who is 61. “I lost a wonderful friend, a mentor, a confidant and my hero.”
Brown will have to try to overcome some of that emotion when the game starts against the Cyclones. The No. 19 Longhorns (7-2, 4-2 Big 12) are on a three-game winning streak and still in the running for one of the Big 12’s top bowl bids after last week’s 31-22 win at Texas Tech.
The Texas defense is coming off one of its best games of the season and quarterback David Ash rebounded from getting pulled from the game a week earlier against Kansas to throw for three touchdowns.
The offense also seems to have found a new weapon in freshman running back Johnathan Gray, who has consecutive 100-yard games in the first two starts of his career.
“Whatever you’ve got left in the tank, we need it. Full effort. All in,” Ash said. “Four more weeks of regular-season football and let’s try to be in the best spot possible at the end of the year.”