1988 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Prepare yourself to live in the most competitive society in the world."
The son of a Louisiana sharecropper and a domestic worker, Eddie Robinson was born in rural central Louisiana in 1919. When he was six, the family moved to Baton Rouge, and soon thereafter, his parents divorced. Although he was an only child, Robinson was part of a large and loving extended family. He was close to both his parents and was happy whether living with his father or mother.
Neither of his parents was educated, but they supported their son's desire to stay in school and "be somebody." He enjoyed football, and by ninth grade was organizing the neighborhood kids into leagues. In high school, he played for his first hero, Coach Julius Kraft, who taught him the basics of coaching. Robinson, the first member of his family to graduate from high school, enrolled at Leland College, where he played football as a quarterback.
When Robinson graduated, he began working at a feed mill, earning 25 cents an hour. He learned of an opening for head football coach at a little college called Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, which hired him even though he had never coached before. A year after he started, the school's name was changed to Grambling State. By his second season, the football team was 8-0, and Robinson knew he had chosen the right career.
Robinson was known as "the winningest coach in college football." He guided the once-obscure Gambling Tigers to national prominence and popularity. The school became one of the nation's most prolific training grounds for professional football, sending more than 230 athletes to the pros during Robinson's tenure. In 1983, Grambling built a new 22,000-seat stadium, which bears his name; and South 13th Street in Baton Rouge was renamed Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive in his honor. In 1997, Robinson retired from his impressive coaching career.
Robinson always tried to instill those traditional values in his athletes. He said, "America offers more opportunities to young people than any other country in the world, but the opportunities come at a price. You have to be prepared. If opportunity comes and you're not prepared, you can't have it. That's the truth and that's the bottom line."