A fullback lined up two yards behind the quarterback and a step up in front of two other running backs. Thus, the “wishbone” offensive formation was born.
This infamous and very effective offensive formation was a created in 1968 by coaching legend Darrell K. Royal, who passed away on Nov. 7 at the age of 88.
Royal was the face of Texas Longhorns football team from 1957-1976, while also being the University‘s Athletic Director from 1969-1972.
As the Longhorns head coach, Royal posted a record of 167-47-5, the best record in the nation during that time period and also making him the winningest coach in Longhorns
Royal took the job in 1957, hoping to turn around a struggling team. He turned a Longhorn team that had one only one game in the ’56 season to winning six games the following season to go along with an appearance in the 1957 Sugar Bowl. Mission accomplished but there would be much more to the Royal legend.
This would be the first of the many great coaching accomplishments for Royal during his time with the Longhorns. Royal would take his simplistic and straightforward approach toward life and implement it into his coaching style. It led the Longhorns to three national championships (’63, ’69, ’70), 11 Southwest conference titles and 16 bowl appearances. Royal would claim two Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Awards. In his 23 years of coaching Royal never once had a losing season.
Royal was more than a coach in the game of football, he was also an innovator and a mentor for the game he loved. He created an offensive formation in the “wishbone” that spread like wildfire in the football world as many teams used it as a stable of their offense, not only back then but in today offense’s as well.
Royal was the first coach in the nation to hire an academic counselor to ensure his athletes would graduate and be successful both off and on the field
The wishbone formation was without a question a reflection of Royal’s coaching style. Royal was a believer in a strong running game and the wishbone focused on the rushing attack. Royal rarely enjoyed passing the ball, which led to this memorable quote: “Three things can happen when you pass the ball and two them are bad.”
Since the time of Royal, the Longhorns have become a national powerhouse in college football, winning their fourth national championship in 2005 and many conference titles, but none of this would be possible without the work Royal had done.
The Longhorns would rename their stadium after the legendary coach in 1996. The Texas football team would also honor the coach by running a play off his famous wishbone formation during the team’s 33-7 win over Iowa State this past weekend showing their respect for the coach and the memories he left them with.
Darrell K. Royal will go down as one of the greatest coaches in college football history, and even though he has passed he left behind his legacy in the world of football and we will all remember it as the legacy of a legend.