Robinson often uses bits of wisdom from history and literature in his talks. "They like to know that we've been in the books, too," he says. Hayes, a student of history, frequently drew on major historical figures. The idea was to combat the boredom of doing the same things week after week, to put a little humor in the proceedings and, says Woody, "to create a community of interest, so that when you told a player something, he knew what you were talking about."
When playing at Illinois, Hayes's Buckeyes would sometimes eat in the old Urbana Lincoln Hotel beneath an enormous portrait of Honest Abe. Before the game Hayes often spoke about Lincoln. Woody would describe his human side, how he was a lonely man, just as football players are at times, and how he never let a defeat keep him down. "The eventual winner, we called him," says Hayes. "We talked about what kind of a football player he'd have made. We even talked about what position he'd have played. We decided on defensive tackle. He could have used those strong, rail-splitter's arms to shed blockers."
Another Hayes favorite was Emerson, especially his essay Compensation: "Every sweet hath its sour; every evil its good.... For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly." Says Hayes, "I had players coming back years later saying to me, 'Coach, Emerson was right!' He was a great communicator. He could talk to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard one day, then go out on a skiff on the Mississippi and talk to farmers the next. He'd have made a hell of a coach."