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The eyes of Texas are a-weepin'

Another day, another piece of my youth gone flying off with the angels.

Sad news out of Texas tonight, where the most beloved football coach in the history of burnt-orange-and-white, Darrell Royal, has died at the age of 88.

Back in the day -- the late 1950s, 1960s and '70s, mostly -- Royal was right up there on Mount Rushmore with Bo and Woody and the Bear, and JoePa, too. The man won 11 Southwest Conference titles, 10 Cotton Bowls and two national titles at Texas, one in 1963 and one in 1969. He gave college football the Wishbone, made legends out of slick quarterbacks who went by names like Duke Carlisle and James Street, made more legends out of a linebacker named Tommy Nobis and a rodeo bull of a fullback named Steve Worster.

Oh, yeah: Royal also had a wide receiver named Cotton Speyrer and a placekicker named, no lie, Happy Feller. It doesn't get any more Texas than that.

For me, Royal will always be defined by a gray December day in Fayetteville, Ark., when No. 1 Texas took on No. 2 Arkansas in the latest Game of the Century. It was 1969, and Arkansas' stadium was jammed to the gills. Even President Nixon was there.

It all came down to a gambler's roll by Royal, a deep, almost-never-run route from Street to tight end Randy Peschel with the Longhorns down 14-8 and the clock against them. Peschel caught it for a 44-yard gain to the Arkansas 13, and two plays later Jim Bertelsen banged in for the score that won it for Texas, 15-14.

I watched every minute of that game, even though I had no allegiance to either team. If there's any single game that made me a college football fan for life, that was it.

And for that, I salute Darrell Royal, too.

Ben Smith's blog.