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'DKR: The Royal Scrapbook'

More than just a good gift for grandpa
Russ Espinoza, 9:40am, Tue. Oct. 2, 2012
What does one buy for the grandpa that has 40 years worth of socks from grandma? How about a little reading material to go with his morning Folgers? Say, a handsome volume festooned with timeworn Longhorn football artifacts from the old timer’s day. Suck it, socks.

DKR: The Royal Scrapbook efficiently relives and documents the life of our football stadium’s namesake: Darrell K Royal (now 88 years old). Co-author Jenna Hays McEachern’s history of the preeminent Texas head coach blends the personal with the professional for a full-bodied treatment of Royal’s long, legendary life.

Before DKR hit the scene, UT’s football program was in the dumps. But long before that, Royal was a small town Oklahoma boy, a Dust Bowl migrant, and later a standout punter and kick returner for the — gulp — Oklahoma Sooners. Yes, the man credited with revolutionizing Longhorn football was first a Sooner, born and bred. Joining the Sooner coaching staff was Royal’s “dream job” for years, and it nearly came to fruition in 1951, and again in 1964 — when he turned down a tempting offer to defect from UT and replace his mentor, Bud Wilkinson, as OU’s head coach.

Royal became UT’s head coach in 1957 after proving himself during brief, yet successful stints heading up the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (1953), Mississippi State (1954-55), and the University of Washington in 1956.

The rest constitutes the golden age of Longhorn Football history — despite numerous patches of turbulence and tragedy on and off the gridiron during Royal’s 20-year reign (1957-76).

DKR: The Royal Scrapbook transcends the sterile, hero-worshipping biography through a forthright narrative that addresses Royal’s perceived character flaws, and his missteps as a man and an elite football coach. DKR, the man, is best humanized through the author’s attention to the alternately charmed and tragic trajectories of the Royal family — who were famous, admired, and sought-after, but also lost two children in a span of 10 years.

McEachern’s prose is accentuated by a whirlwind of “vintage” ephemera: ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, letters, and family photos that were primarily supplied by Royal’s wife and DKR co-author Edith Royal — whose storytelling and memory is relied upon on and featured extensively. Many of DKR’s pages teem, and nesting is a must for complete absorption.

Perhaps it’s dismissive to cast DKR as the ideal coffee table book for burnt-orange bleeding grandfathers everywhere; especially when the Gen Y’ers trampling today’s 40 acres are liable to only think of – or care about – Texas football since their first UT tailgate two years ago.

Royal and McEachern will be at the 2012 Texas Book Festival being held Oct. 27-28 at the state Capitol building. For more coverage of TBF 2012 authors, click here.

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