Eddie Robinson has heard all the reasons why Grambling quarterback Doug Williams won't win the Heisman trophy this year: he plays for a small college, he hasn't recieved enough national recognition, he han't been tested by stiff-enough competition and, well, he can't beat out Earl Campbell.
But Robinson thinks everyone is missing a point that he had labored vigorously to prove during his 36 years as football coach at the modest, brick-building campus of Grambling State University.
"This is America, isn't it?" he asked. "My quarterback isn't just a black or at a small college. He is an American quarterback and, as an American quarterback, he 's got as much chance to win the Heisman as anyone else.
"Four years ago they were saying, 'Jimmy Who?' and now Jimmy is in the White House."
Robinson is a sports evangelist spreading the gospel of equal-opportunity football. For years, he has nibbled away at the nonbelievers, convincing them that his players could make the grade in the pros and that his tream could fill up such glowing monuments to the athletic dollar as the Superdomw, Astrodome and Yankee Stadium.
Now that the school has been place in the NCAAs major college division this year, he thinks the time is right for the sports world to accept a Grambling product as a legitimate candidate for the Heisman. It is the final barrier left for him to conquer in his long crusade.
This Williams-for-the-Heisman push is no tlick Grambling public relations campaign. It is an emotional experience for Robinson and his players and a test of all thos patriotic notion that he preaches from the moment they step on campus. And it is a barometer by which everyone can judge the strength of the Grambling mystique started by Tank Younger when he left this North Lousiana town in the late 1940s to become a star with the Los Angeles Rams.
Much like an Old Testament story, Williams is the end result of a longline of great Grambling players. As each added to the Grambling legend, Robinson was looking forward the day when one of his players would possess the correct mixture of talent, personality and appeal to warrant the Heisman. Williams measures up perfectly in all categories.
'There is a little bit of Ernie Ladd and Tank Younger and Sammy White and James Harris in Doug Williams," admitted Grambling publicity man Collie Nicholson. "Without them, Doug wouldn't have a chance for the award and we know it."
Grambling people believe that no other balck school could think seriously about snatching the Heisman for one of its players. They are convinced that Grambling has become a national football university for blacks, much as Notre Dame is the national football school for Catholics. Grambling has the and credibility to say, 'here, this the fame and credibility to say, 'here, this player is as good as anybody in the U.S. and not have anyone laugh. Payton (of Jackson State) was a legitimate candidate a few years ago," said Robinson. "Now he's the best back in the NFL. They are taking Doug seriously this year. People have to realize that when we send so many players (160-plus) to the pros, we know how to recognize talent."
Already the strain and emotion surrounding the campaign have resulted in at least on episode that Robinson had never faced before in his lengthy career.
"I have a bulletin board in the stadium where I put all the clips on the players," he said. "I hadn't put any of Doug's up because he had so many and I wanted the other players to catch up some.
"Well, it was Doug Williams Day, as proclaimed by the governor of Louisiana. We were in the locker room and I was saying how Doug must have thought we didn't care about him because of the lack of clippings and all.
"And I read the proclamation. He started to cry and I did and everyone on the team was crying. I had to walk out. I didn't know what to do."
But this season has been more smiles than tears. As Williams continues to tear up the Grambling record book, his Heisman candidacy has become an increasingly more publicized event.
The major television networks, the nation's best-known papers and the top magazines all want to tell his story. Grambling is preparing two brochures to be mailed out before Heisman ballots are returned. Things have gone so well that now Williams had become convinced he has an outside shot at winning.
"I was maybe a 30-to-1 shot at the beginning of the season," he said while relaxing between classes and interviews. "Now it's 20-to-1.
"If I don't win, I won't be surprised. But if people judge me on my talents and not on how well I'm known or who I play for, it may be close."
And even if he finished down the list in the final voting, Robinson and Williams are convinced that this year's work will make it possible for another player from a black school to win the Heisman later.
"I guess I'm a prisoner," said Williams. "Someone had to pave the way for the future. There will be someone else, I'm sure."
But that someone else may not be as good as Doug Williams. He is, Grambling people will tell you, the most talented player Robinson had ever coached - and that covers a lot of players and a lot of years.
William is so gifted that Robinson has junked his run-oriented offense that had been good enough to win 254 games before this season. Instead, Grambling now uses a simpler attack: pass, brother, pass.
In the first nine games, Williams has tossed 281 passes, an average of 31 per contest. He had thrown for 2,644 yards, completed 139 passes (for an average of 19 yards a completion) and tossed 31 touchdowns. No one in college football this season can match those statistics or his total offense output of 289 yards a contest.
Any nobody in major college football history had ever passed for more yards (7,769) or more touchdowns (86) in a career.
"Douglas Williams stand today as having done things no one else before him could do," said Robinson. "If that doesn't make you believe in America and our way of life, then nothing will. He's shown he can be a student and an athelete and he can overcome handicaps."
Williams, who will graduate in June, agrees.
"Coach is always telling us that this is American and that means we just aren't black or from a small school. We can achieve things if we try."
Still, he admits laying on his dorm bed late at night and asking his room-mate - his younger brother, Mike - "if this is really happening to me. You know, the attention and interviews and all."
If William feels pressure from his growing fame, he isn't showing it on the football field. He says Robinson "wants us to be entertains" and that is exactly what he has become.
He had done everything this year from throwing seven touchdowns in one game (despite sitting out the fourth quarter) to hitting straight passes to tossing for 378 yards in another contest. And only once in his career had he failed to have at least one TD pass in a game.
Opponents have come up with all sorts of confusing defenses to stop him but Williams has solved every one in a most simplistic way.
"My line is so good that I've only been sacked four times. So I can sit back there and wait for a long time. No defense can stop me if I get enough time. It's impossible for them to cover our recievers that long."
And he had recieved lots of them. Carlos Pennywell is 6 foot-4 and runs a 4.5 40, averages 23 yards a catch and already has a 91-yard TD reception. "He runs," says Williams, "some of the best patterns in the country."
Tight end Mike Moore (6-0215) led the Southwestern Athletic Conference in catches last year and is among the nation's best this season. "He's our garbage man," says Williams. "He's our picks up everything over the middle. He never stops looking at the ball." Moore is the slowest of the ends - he can run the 40 in just 4.7 seconds.
The fastest is wingback Robert Woods, a legitimate 9.1 sprinter who has so much speed "people play off him a mile," according to his quarterback. "You can't let him get a step."
Williams, always had been blessed with fine recievers since he first started for Grambling midway through his freshman year. First there was White, who was NFC rookie of the year with Minnesota last year, and then he was replaced by Dwight Scales, who is with the Rams. "I've just had to put it up there and they catch it," he said.
But down at Vernell Delafoose's Barber Shop, the local athletic hanout, they'll tell you that no one at Grambling, not even James Harris, has ever thrown a football quite like Williams.
Sitting behind that massive offensive line (average weight: 263 pounds), he whips passes with a flick of his wrist, much like his idol, Joe Namath once did. He is especially accurate at long distances and he holds up well under pressure. And his strength keeps him from getting tired late in games.
"They are trying to hammer me every game," he said. "The guy who gets me, well, he'll be able to say, 'I hammered Doug Williams, I hurt him good.
"The defensive lineman are always talking to me, and telling me, 'You aren't winning the Heisman today.' I laugh about it, bacause my own team calls me Mr. Heisman. I love my own team calls me Mr. Heisman. I love this. I love action. My favourite TV programs like Hawaii Five-O and Kojak all have action. It's hard for me to sit still."
Grambling people delight in talking about Williams'background: the lightly recruited prospect (four scholarship offers) from a rural town (Zachary, La., population 8,000) and large family of moderate means (disabled father, eight brothers and and sisters) who once wanted to be a pro baseball player.
"We were surrounded by large schools," said Williams. "College scouts never could find where Zachary was. I sort of got lost in shuffle."
Robinson built his empire with this type of athlete. But with the coming of integration predominantly white southern schools began finding the Wille Browns and Buck Buchanans along with Grambling, which started losing many of the recruiting battles.
So Robinson had had to gear up his statewide scouting system to search harder and work longer to keep his team competitive. And when they find prospects like Williams, a-foot-4, 215 pound specimen who could rigle a football 85 yards for a weak high school team. Robinson's dynasty is sustained a little longer.
It also didn't hurt Robinson's cause that Williams' brother attended Grambling and that William always dreamed of wearing a Grambling uniform "after seeing them on television Sunday mornings beating up on all those folks."
Recruiting him wasn't the major problem. Robinson had a harder time keeping him on the football team once Williams go to Grambling.
Because he was such a hot baseball prospect, the Grambling baseball coach wanted him to try out for the squad. Since the baseball coach also was college president Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, the tug-of-war became a most delicate matter.
"I talked to both of them," said Williams. "I wanted to play baseball, but, well, coach robinson convinced me otherwise. He didn't want to miss spring practice. President Jones understood."
When it came to football, Jones, who retired last year, rarely stood in the way. During his 50 years on campus, he came to recognize that football was the one vehicle the school could ride to national fame and increased riches.
His foresight was rewarded last year when the athletic department was able to give $3 million to the school to help offset a staggering deficit that once was as large as $8 million.
Money always has been short at Grambling The Louisiana Legislature tradianally has been reluctant to support the school with adequate funds. Jones once said that all of the early buildings on campus were built in part through contributions from students and faculty, who also had to pitch in and supply much of the labor.
That stage had passed, but Williams and other Grambling students certainly aren't lured to the school by its architectual beauty. Much like the small, intimate community around it, Grambling States is an unpretentious place, uncluttered with massive buildings and monuments like Notre Dame's Golden Dome.
Most of its colonial brick 30-plus buildings are located along two main streets just off the tiny business district. The town's only two stop lights regulate campus traffic generated by almost 4,000 students.
It once was so difficult to get to Grambling that folks here say you had to have a good reason to try to make the trip. But now the interstate highway between Shreveport and Monroe has eased accessibility.
The all-black town of Grambling is located a couple of miles off that highway. Neat, one-story brick home line the roads around the school. Glass, plywood and asbestos plants are close by, but the community is almost entirely dependent on the college. When students leave for holidays, many of the small stores close down to save money.
Grambling began as a sawmill town. When the townpeople wanted to start a school, they wrote to brooker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute for help. He sent them Charles Adams, a 6-10 educator who eventually founded what was then known as North Louisana Agricultural and Industrial Institute.
It wasn't until 1928 that the state began supporting the school, which didn't get electricity until 1937 and didn't become a four-year institution until 1940, a year before Robinson joined the faculty and six years before it became known as Grambling College.
By then, Jones was president and Grambling was training future teachers instead of future farmers. Robinson took on the task of fulfilling Jones' dream of creating a respectable football team.
That Robinson accomplished his assignment - and then some - is remarkable. Even now, the on-campus football stadium is not considered a first-rate high school facility and the practice field is just as inadequate. There were always equipment shortages in the early years and run-down buses were the only means available for travel.
But Robinson, part showman and full-time patriot who must eat apple pie every day for dessert, changed all that with a marvelous public relations move in the late 1970s.
He needed some vehicle to make Grambling more attractive for those black athletes who wer being lured to predominantly white schools. His solution: take black football to the big cities, where he hoped the growing black pride of that time would result in massive crowds.
it did. Grambling criss-crossed the country, pulling in fans in cities that wouldn't support their local schools. Tigers went first class, styling in the best hotels and putting on a show that rarely disappointed the paying customers.
And honors started coming Robinson's way. He became the first black president of the Football Coaches Association and only Bear Bryant has more wins among active coaches.
Now when Grambling loses, which is rare, callers from around the country flood the school switchboard, wanting to know what had gone wrong. And school officials have found they can cook less food all day Sunday in the cafeteria. Students just aren't as hungry.
"I'm a meddler," said Robinson. "If I see something I think I can change, I meddle. Always have, always will. That's the only reason we've accomplished what we have.
"I'm also convinced that we have shown that the youth of today aren't worthless. They want to be pressed, they want to be told what to do. You have to fight them with discipline. That's why my boys still have to wear ties on trips.
"I see tremendous opportunity for our youth and I get mad if he hides behind the fact he is black. That's the easy way out."
Grambling players are taught how to be interviewed "so they don't make fools of themselves in public." He has gone as far as having them interview each other in mock postgame locker room scenes.And they often dress to the words and music of the song, "People."
"I know I'm doing the right thing," he said. "Only one of my former players has not sent his son to me to coach. Only one. They must like what I'm doing."
They do. Williams says the success of the football team "makes people turn their heads when you say you are from Grambling. We're the big boys of small college, hey look up to us.
"We've got pride. The campus motto is, 'Everybody Is Somebody.' That's what coach Robinson preaches too. I'll tell you, I'd have no problem getting fed on Sundays in this town. They love Grambling football players."
Robinson is content with his success. Oh, he'd like to see the school build a new athletic complex that would include a 32,000 seat stadium and a new basketball field house. And he wouldn't mind being able to hire a fifth assistant coach to relieve staff shortage problems.
But his concern now, he says, is with "a few things that stick in my craw. One is that a black college player can't win the Heisman; the other is that a black quarterback can't make it in the pros."
Williams is his hope to meet both goals, although Robinson is convinced that even if the Heisman doesn't come his way, his quarterback is a sure bet to be a great professional.
It's been a struggle to get a black quarterback in the NFL," said Robinson. "James (Harris) has done it, but look at all the problems and controversy he has had.
"I look around and see other coaches have (white) quarterbacks in the league and I ask myself, 'Why can't I do it too?' I coach American football, just like anyone else. I just need the opportunity."
Williams is that opportunity. Robinson admits that his latest quarterback "is benefitting from my experience with the ones before him. He is an end product.
"They all were passers and all about the same size, because quarterbacks that big (6-4) and with that kind of arm turn me on. From each one, I've learned something and I've asked the pros what my boys have lacked.
"A lot of water has gone under the bridge. There is more acceptance for black quarterbacks now, more patience, more tolerance. Doug should be better, or I'm not much of a coach."
Harris and Williams talk at least once a week on the phone. Williams says the San Diego Charger quarterback doesn't go into much detail about what has happened to him, "but you know he's been hurt.
Robinson also frets about whether he is overcoaching his newest protege. He says he wants Williams to be such a success "that you have a tendency to point out everything he does wrong and turn him into a mechanical man.
"I remember when James was here. We were playing Southern and he is trying to drive us to a touchdown. Well, he calls time out and comes to the sidelines. 'Coach, I'm having a terrible time keeping the nose of the football up when I pass,' he says to me.
"He wants to know if he should open up his stride to help out. I laughed. 'James, I got you because you can throw the football and you've got the same high school receiver that you've been throwing to for years. Don't worry about the nose of the football. Just go out there and throw it.
"He did. He stepped back and completed this pretty pass and then looked over to me and started to laugh. I did too. We can't let the thing with the pros hurt the boy."
Harris and Williams talk at least once a week on the phone. Williams, who got to know the San Diego quarterback during spring practice a couple of years ago, says Harris doesn't go into "much detail about what has happened to him in the pros, "but you know he's been hurt by it."
"I know it took a man with a lot of courage and pride to keep fighting like he has. I'll be ready to deal with the same things if I have to.
"But he's helped me. He tells me about defenses and points things out. It will help me keep my composure next year, so when I try to make a team, I'll be making it on my merits, not on the color of my skin. That's all James ever wanted too."
Pro scouts say that Williams has more physical attributes than Harris. He sets up quicker, he is better coordinated, his hands are larger and he has the type of outgoing personality that will help him in a leadership role.
And unlike Harris, who was drafted in the eighth round by Buffalo, Williams should be a first-round draft choice.
"James seems relaxed now that he is with the Chargers," said Robinson. "He'll give me a call and we'll talk about our last game. One week he gave me a play that helped us score two touchdowns the next week. He wants to see Doug succeed, he likes him. But you have to like him, he's that type of person.
Robinson is especially gald to see Williams maintains his poise during games. "James had a hard time learning to keep his poise," said Robinson. "Doug is so outgoing and he listens so well, that he never loses his poise.
"He's so good he could be doing a lot more, but we won't let him run. He's our main man. Why risk him to injury that way. We want him to be healthy to get up and pass on another play."
It was almost time for practice to start.
"My main fear all through his career was that Doug would go through Grambling and we wouldn't bring out the considerable talent he has," he said, "I didn't want people to say how good he would have been if he had gone somewhere else."
Then Robinson sat back in his chair. "I don't think anyone - anyone - can say that now. Not after they watch that man throw a football."