GRAMBLING La. – Almost a decade after the Legislature authorized a state museum to honor former Grambling State University (GSU) football coach Eddie G. Robinson, it will open on what would have been his 91st birthday.
New Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly will give the keynote address at the dedication on Saturday, Feb. 13. The evening before, Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin headlines a corporate fundraising banquet.
Many former Grambling players, including Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Davis, Doug Williams, and James “Shack” Harris, will join Secretary of State Jay Dardenne and local officials at the dedication.
Plans for the museum had setback after setback. But within months after Robinson’s death in 2007, the University of Louisiana System worked out a deal to house the museum on campus, and the Legislature approved the funding.
Robinson coached at GSU from 1941 to 1997 and in 1985 set a still-standing Division I mark for college football victories. But in Louisiana, Robinson was known as much for being a father figure to many of his players and shaping the university and broader community as he was for his coaching accomplishments.
“Just the name Eddie Robinson sends shock waves,” interim GSU President Frank Pogue said. “It’s possible it sends a stronger wave beyond the borders of Louisiana; he was such a figure in the broader world.”
A life-sized, bronze statue of Robinson stands just inside the museum.
Other exhibits include a time line of Robinson’s life, a theater that will show an 8 to 10 minute Robinson documentary film, an NFL room that will highlight the more than 200 players that played professional football after playing for Robinson, and an interactive area where kids can throw a football to a mock receiver and hear Robinson’s voice recorded during practices giving them tips and encouragement.
The museum could eventually become part of the African-American Heritage Trail, which the state created a few years ago as part of an effort to highlight the state’s rich history and increase tourism.
“I think it’ll become one of the real rallying points for the state, for Lincoln Parish and Monroe all the way down,” said Sailor Jackson, director of audio, film and video for the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office.