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Former Texas coach Royal dies at age 88

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Former Texas coach Royal dies at age 88

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A son of Depression-era Oklahoma, Darrell Royal came to Texas to take over a sleeping giant of a football program. Over 20 years, his folksy approach to sports and life, his inventive wishbone offense and a victory in the ``Game of the Century'' - where a U.S. president declared his team national champion - made him an icon of college football.

Royal, who won two national championships and turned the Longhorns into a national power, died early Wednesday at age 88 of complications from cardiovascular disease, school spokesman Bill Little said. Royal also suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

Royal didn't have a single losing season in his 23 years as a head coach at Texas, Mississippi State and Washington. Known for their stout defenses and punishing running attacks, his Texas teams boasted a 167-47-5 record from 1957-1976, the best mark in the nation over that period.

``It was fun,'' Royal told The Associated Press in 2007. ``All the days I was coaching at Texas, I knew this would be my last coaching job. I knew it when I got here.''

It almost didn't happen. Royal wasn't Texas' first choice.

Texas was coming off a 1-9 season in 1956 - still the worst in program history - and wanted a high-profile coach to turn things around. The Longhorns were rebuffed by Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd and Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty, but both coaches encouraged Texas to hire the 32-year-old Royal, who was lying in bed the night he got the call summoning him to Austin.

``Edith, this is it, this is the University of Texas,'' Royal told his wife.

Royal led the Longhorns to a 6-3-1 record in his first season, but he was so sickened by Mississippi's 39-7 thrashing of his team in the Sugar Bowl that he gave away the commemorative bowl watch he received.

Under Royal, Texas won 11 Southwest Conference titles, 10 Cotton Bowl championships and national championships in 1963 and 1969, going 11-0 each time. The Longhorns also won a share of the 1970 national title, earning him a national stature that rivaled that of Alabama's Paul ``Bear'' Bryant and Ohio State's Woody Hayes. Royal was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

A public memorial ceremony is scheduled for noon Tuesday at the Frank Erwin Center basketball arena. Royal will be buried at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, an honor typically reserved for the state's military and political leaders.

University officials illuminated the iconic UT Tower with burnt orange floodlights in Royal's honor Wednesday night.

On Saturday, the Longhorns will honor Royal at their home game against Iowa State by wearing ``DKR'' stickers on their helmets and by lining up in the wishbone formation, which Royal used to such great success, for their first offensive snap.

``Today is a very sad day. I lost a wonderful friend, a mentor, a confidant and my hero. College football lost maybe its best ever and the world lost a great man,'' current Texas coach Mack Brown said Wednesday. ``His counsel and friendship meant a lot to me before I came to Texas, but it's been my guiding light for my 15 years here.''

As a player at Oklahoma, Royal was a standout quarterback, defensive back and punter, and he credited hard work and luck for his success on the field and later as a coach. He had a self-deprecating style and a knack for delivering pithy quotes - or ``Royalisms'' - about his team and opponents.

``Football doesn't build character, it eliminates the weak ones,'' was one of Royal's famous lines.

``Luck is when preparation meets opportunity,'' was another.

``He was a guy who was so strong and so determined and so direct about things,'' said former Texas quarterback James Street. ``He was that way to the very end.''

Royal and assistant Emory Ballard changed the football landscape in 1968 with the development of the wishbone, which features a fullback lined up behind the quarterback and a step in front of two other backs.

The innovation nearly flopped. After a tie and loss in the first two games that season, a frustrated Royal inserted backup Street to take over.

``Coach Royal grabbed me and he looked for a minute as if he were having second thoughts about putting me in. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, `Hell, you can't do any worse. Get in there,''' Street said

Texas won its next 30 games. Soon, rival Oklahoma and other schools started using the wishbone as well.

``The University of Oklahoma joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the life's work of Darrell Royal,'' said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione. ``We've truly lost an icon - a champion, an innovator and an educator.''

The national title season in 1969 included what was dubbed the ``Game of the Century,'' a come-from-behind, 15-14 victory by the top-ranked Longhorns over No. 2 Arkansas to cap the regular season.

In Texas lore, it ranks as the greatest game ever played. President Richard Nixon, an avid football fan, flew in by helicopter to watch. Afterward, Nixon greeted Royal with a plaque in the Texas locker room proclaiming Texas the national champion.

The Longhorns also were named national champions by United Press International in 1970, a year in which Texas lost its final game to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and finished 10-1.

Royal faced criticism over the lack of black players on his first 13 Texas teams, although he had coached black players at Washington and in the Canadian football league.

At the 1960 Cotton Bowl, Syracuse accused Texas of hurling racial barbs at Syracuse's black players, which Royal denied. Texas became the first SWC school to announce it would fully integrate the athletic program in 1963, but the football team didn't have a black letterman until Julius Whittier in 1970.

Royal, who acknowledged being unconcerned about racial discrimination for much of his life, credited former President Lyndon B. Johnson with turning around his viewpoint. Johnson, who attended Texas football games after his presidency ended, was close friends with Royal.

``I'm not a football fan,'' Johnson once said. ``But I am a fan of people, and I am a Darrell Royal fan because he is the rarest of human beings.''

In 1972, former Texas lineman Gary Shaw published ``Meat on the Hoof,'' a searing critique of the Texas program that accused the coaches of having a class system within the program and of devising sadistic drills to drive off unwanted players. Royal tried to distance himself from the claims, saying in interviews he had ``never heard'' of the drills Shaw described.

``I want to be remembered as a winning coach, but also as an honest and ethical coach,'' Royal said in 1975.

Royal was among the first football coaches in the nation to hire an academic counselor - sometimes referred to as a ``brain coach'' in that era - to ensure athletes went on to graduate. He also set aside a fund for a special ``T'' ring, which players received upon graduation. Royal also served as Texas athletic director from 1962-1979.

The youngest of six children born to Katy and B.R. ``Burley'' Royal, he grew up in tiny Hollis, Okla., where he chopped cotton as a young boy for 10-cents an hour to help his family through the Depression. His mother died before he was 6 months old, and he lost two sisters to a fever epidemic.

In 1938, Royal's father took the family from the Dustbowl to California to look for work. Homesick for Oklahoma, Royal soon packed his bags and hitchhiked his way back.

Royal is survived by his wife, Edith, and a son, Mack. The couple had two other children, daughter Marian, who died in 1973, and son David, who died in 1982.

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Follow Jim Vertuno on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/JimVertuno

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

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GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

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