SI Vault
Grady Jim Robinson
December 01, 1986
I peeked through the kitchen window and pressed my ear to the screen, hoping to hear the conversation that was going on in our backyard in Greenwood, Ark. Three University of Arkansas assistant football coaches were sitting on a dilapidated picnic table, sipping Cokes and listening intently as my dad preached the gospel of the single wing formation. I was 13 or 14 and my father was Grady J. Robinson Sr., coach of the Greenwood High School Bulldogs—an old-fashioned coach and an avid proponent of the short punt formation, the flying wedge and a variety of trick plays. Two or three youthful assistant coaches from Frank Broyles's staff usually dropped by our house or the school gym each spring during their annual public relations and bird-dogging tour of western Arkansas high schools. It was the spring of 1959 or maybe it was 1960, and we had no way of knowing that each of these men, who then worked and trained under the disciplined eye of Broyles, would someday head his own powerful, nationally ranked football team.
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December 01, 1986

A Son Recalls His Dad's Role In The Careers Of Three Famous Coaches

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Entertaining though it was, Dad's brand of football did have its drawbacks. During the '50s and early '60s, modern, technique football began to filter slowly into Arkansas from Oklahoma and Texas—hard-nosed, "stick your helmet in the sternum and drive 'em to the turf ball, low-cut shoes, face guards, weight training, timed 40-yard dashes, two-way platoons and entire coaching staffs dressed identically.

In those days the big Arkansas high schools were playing split-draw ball with wideouts and wingbacks. (Today Greenwood plays modern football, too, of course, and has ever since the mid-'60s, when coach Charles Sadler came along to assist my dad.) The rawboned farm boys were no match for the beefed-up, weight-trained technique players who snapped the ball on a quick, disciplined count of "set, hut! hut!" At Greenwood we continued to use the more colorful, though time-consuming, method of snap count, which went "Get ready, get set, signals, one, two, three, four." If the snap count got as high as four or, heaven forbid, five, a lineman could get cramps waiting for the play to begin. Small-town, single-wing, "grab 'em by the shirt and sling 'em to the ground" football was not sufficient training for the big time up at Fed'vull.

But it was a wonderful era, a great game for our days. There were some outstanding athletes and many whose desire, commitment and will to win could compare with those of the greatest All-America. Every kid in town got a chance to play football, even us skinny kids who loved to avoid a direct hit. We dated cheerleaders just like real players and, what's more important, never suffered a single knee injury.

Recently, while watching the weekend college football wrap-up, I saw three well-known coaches, each from a different part of the country, being interviewed. Suddenly it hit me. These were the three coaches who some 26 years ago sat in our backyard talking to my dad. Dad must have passed along some sound advice, for each has coached a No. 1-ranked team; two have had seasons as national champions; two have coached Heisman Trophy winners; two have had undefeated seasons; all have sent numerous players to the pros and one has the the highest winning percentage among active college football coaches. Not a bad legacy for Frank Broyles...and for Dad.

Who are these coaches, the men who were in our backyard that day listening respectfully as my dad tried to persuade them to go back to the single wing?

Hayden Fry of the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Johnny Majors of the Tennessee Volunteers.

And, yep, Barry Switzer of the Oklahoma Sooners.

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