IT Exclusive: Tommy Nobis Interview, Part 1

Recently, Inside Texas interviewed Longhorn All-American Tommy Nobis as part of the preparation for our current magazine cover story on Darrell Royal. Excerpts of the conversation were included in the article. But Nobis had a lot more to say...

...about his experiences during a golden era of Longhorn football when the program came with a two-point conversion of consecutive national championships. He also spoke of the current state of Longhorn football, the seismic shifts in the game during the past three decades, and of controversial trainer Frank Medina.


Coach Royal certainly had the quality of saying things that guys got motivated. People would say that, with Coach Royal, there was only one way or you were out the gate. That wasn't really true. I saw him treat guys differently, and I don't mean giving one guy ten wind sprints while the rest of us just had one. I'm talking about the way he would address each guy when he was off by himself. He knew guys were different and he would have different kinds of conversations with them. If you have a good football player, you really want to know what makes that guy tick and to get the big effort out of him on Saturday.

The thing that he could do is cut through everything and get right to the point. When he spoke, you knew the point he was trying to make. He could relate well to the young men of that era. He had his sayings and he could make you laugh just as quick as you could grit your teeth, but there really wasn't any small talk. As we say in Texas, there was just not a whole lot of bulls--- with Coach Royal. He was going to call it and say it like it was.

When you've got two or three minutes at half time, the head coach is either going to say something that will really get to you or not. Young men feed off of that. A lot of them won't admit to it but, when you look at the head man, you want him to motivate you. Coach Royal was so good about being able to say what needed to be said. You had to yell at some guys. Some guys, you may need to physically kick them in the butt. Now, I don't know if you could get away with that today. Different people are motivated in different ways. The great coaches know these differences.


He might suggest that a player was incapable of playing the game at the level that he expected. Or, he might emphasize how important you were to the team. Either way, you were going to show him that you could play this game. Because of your respect for him, you were going to react in a positive way. But there are different ways to get that positive reaction. For some, positive comments would bring positive reactions. And there are times when a negative comment, depending on the individual, could be a motivator.

As a player, you really tried to earn his respect. Once you had it, you weren't going to have any problems. That was true with his whole staff. Those were men's men. If you gave them a day's work and showed that you were going to put it all on the line, they were going to respect you.

If you're a coach that takes everything for granted, you're going to leave some stuff in the tank on Saturday. Some players are not gong to give it everything they've got because you haven't motivated them to that point. A guy who played Saturdays for Coach Royal was going to give everything he had. At the end of the day, you're going to have a pretty empty tank.


The man had an attention to detail that was just unimaginable. I can just hear him asking his assistants, 'Have we missed anything today that we needed to cover? Was there anything that we missed today in preparing?' He was that detailed in the way that we were prepared. If you're covering all the mistakes you could possibly make in practice, you're better prepared and you're less likely to make those mistakes in the game.

I remember having to go out there with the offense and having to run the same play over, and over, and over!, until each of us got our assignments right. It might have been the way we were blocking, or whether we didn't stay with a block, or if the ball carrier didn't take the handoff correctly; if you didn't do it right, you'd go back to the huddle and do it again.

Coach Royal knew what type of player he wanted to have on his team. Even today, I'm sure Mack Brown and his coaches talk about what kind of players they want. I'm not talking about how fast they are, or how high they can jump, how many tackles they had, but what kind of men are they? Are they rebellious? What kind of team do we want?

Coach Royal and his staff knew the type of player that we could win with, and they went after that type of player. There are not many guys that I played with at The University of Texas that I didn't get along with. You know why? Because our backgrounds were so much the same. Our character, the way a lot of us were brought up, we were used to working, so therefore we were pretty close. There wasn't a lot of conflict between players. I could take a player home to my house and he would be welcomed, and I would be treated just as well at your house. It goes back to the type of player.

It was a little more simple back then. Finding that good kid, finding that good player, finding that good student, it's a little tougher now. It's not as cut-and-dry. Coach Royal knew the type of player that he wanted, and I'm talking about more than athletic ability. Obviously, athletic ability is going to come into play if you're going to win championships. You've got to have athletes, but there are other things that make you a winning football team. Usually, it has as much to do with character as it does athletics.

Tommy Nobis (1963-65) set the standard for Longhorn defenses and established his jersey number (60) as one to be worn only by truly exceptional Texas players. During his senior campaign, Nobis won the Outland Trophy (outstanding interior lineman), the Maxwell Award (nation's outstanding college football player) and was the only defensive player listed among the Heisman Finalists in 1965.

Horns Digest Top Stories