Doug Williams owns the word “Grambling.” He says it with a casual love, like he’s talking about a spouse. “Gram-blun.” His relationship with his alma mater is complicated and thorough, from star quarterback to head coach to frustrated alum.

Williams signed with legendary Eddie Robinson’s Tigers in the early 1970s and led Grambling to three Southwestern Athletic Conference titles. In 1977, the one season SWAC teams were considered Division I schools before the I-A/I-AA split, the senior led major college football in just about every passing category. He threw for 3,286 yards and 38 touchdowns, finishing fourth in Heisman voting.

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After a 12-year pro career that featured the Super Bowl XXII title and 100 passing touchdowns in 88 NFL games, Williams got into coaching. He was a running backs coach at Navy, then the offensive coordinator for the World League of American Football’s Scottish Claymores. He spent two seasons as a scout for the Jacksonville Jaguars and a year as Morehouse’s head coach.

Then his alma mater asked him to succeed Robinson in 1998.

“I was realistic,” he says. “I’ve been real all along. I knew when integration came in, the guys who used to go here because they didn’t have anywhere else to go, they weren’t going to come. We didn’t have the resources, the economics. We’re not going to battle LSU for a kid. You’ve got to get the kid who wants to come to Grambling and let those kids grow.”

Since he’d left GSU in the 1970s, the stature of HBCU football had fallen. read more