Miss Louisiana Lauren Vizza visited the Eddie G. Robinson Museum for the first time Saturday, and she was inspired.
"It just goes to show that whether you're from Grambling or from a bigger (place), you can be anything you want." said Vizza, who garnered quite a bit of attention during the museum's open house celebrating the birthday of Eddie G. Robinson and Black History Month. "The museum is so amazing and state of the art," she said. "I'm excited to be a part of this special event. Being a native of Louisiana, Eddie Robinson is football history."
Camera flashes went off almost constantly and kids, ex-NFL players and others asked Vizza to pose for a photograph. Even Doris Robinson, the famed coach's widow, took a photo with the state's queen.
University alumni, Robinson family members and Robinson family friends, elementary school children and others visited the museum, including Grambling State head football coach Doug Williams, who played for Coach Rob and went on to a successful professional football career, including being named the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XXII. Tours were led by Jon Moss, who has managed the museum for three years.
Moss said Saturday afternoon's event was on her list when she started. "When we received new exhibits last year, we changed some things out and it got to a certain point where we wanted to have a open house," said Moss. "This is the first ... open house celebration."
Vizza's visit was no coincidence. "She previously said she wanted to visit the museum," noted Moss. "We kind of based the planning and the event date around her schedule. I'm happy she came."
According to Moss, February is a special month. The museum was started in February. Coach Robinson's birthday is Feb.13. The museum was dedicated on his birthday three years ago.
The museum is important to a lot of people, including Timothy Hudson, who lived across the street from the Robinsons when he was growing up in Grambling. He said the museum "is important for all African Americans to understand the history and the renaissance of our city."
"We are honored people take the time to experience what Eddie Robinson dealt with and how far we have come in our healing process," added Hudson, the university's football team equipment manager.
The event started at 1 p.m. and ended about 4 p.m. The Grambling State University Show Band played near the front door and outside of the museum gift shop as a group of church children and their parents dressed in Grambling State University paraphernalia enjoyed the music. Jacoby Boston, Mr. Grambling Middle School, said it's important to learn about Coach Robinson's struggles and growth - and he's made it his business to learn about the coach. "I wasn't forced to this event. I actually wanted to come and celebrate one of the greatest African American coaches in history," said Boston, 11.
New Rocky Valley Church Youth Director Noelle Manning told her kids before leaving the church today that this day was more important because it's Black History Month.
"Black history is right here in our community period," said Manning. "I explained to them that all it takes is one to make a difference."
Archie Osbourne Tatum said Coach Rob had a sense of humor that people don't mention too much. "I remember he asked me to work for him and he told me he never hired a lady so when I finally turned my keys in, he asked me to stay longer," laughed Tatum, a 1959 Grambling State alum who worked for Robinson for four years and retired as the property manager of the Stadium View Apartments.
It has been almost six years since Robinson died in April 2007, and a movement to build and dedicate a museum in his honor was launched. "The most unique thing about Coach Robinson is he connected with every player on a personal basis," said Delles R. Howell Sr., who played defensive back for Grambling from 1966-1970 before playing six years in the NFL. "It was a privilege playing for such a great human being."
Monroe native Geralka "Gerri" Jackson, a senior mass communication major and Miss Grambling State University, knows how important Eddie Robinson was to Grambling State and how awesome it is to attend the university where he coached for most of his life. "It so great to see how everybody came out to honor just a legend to this school and legend to this state and community," said Jackson, a Ouachita Parish High School graduate.
Ken Koroma, associate vice president of sponsored programs at the university, and Leroy Collins, a visitor from Monroe, won a couple of pass throwing contests inside the museum at an exhibit where visitors can try to best or match pass Grambling State football quarterbacks.
"I thought the turnout was great," said Moss. "Next year expect bigger and better."