If you made a movie of the life of Darryl Drake, the guy you'd have to cast to play him is Morgan Freeman. True, Freeman has about 25 years on Drake, but the world-class actor exudes the same qualities of the coach/father-figure/brother/friend who has been such a huge factor in the Texas football program for the last six years.
Drake, who last week announced he was accepting the wide receivers job with the Chicago Bears of the NFL, was the calm in the eye of a storm, the guy whose quick wit would break you up and get you on the right path, and most of all, a father figure you trusted, whose caring and knowledge of the game made him the personification of the word "coach."
For all of those reasons, leaving Texas was a tough call for this talented man who had invested so much of himself in helping Mack Brown build a model program at The University of Texas. But when the Bears offered to nearly double his salary, and guaranteed him a contract that would make him vested toward NFL retirement benefits, Drake and his wife, Sheila, had no choice but to say goodbye.
When Drake's emotional goodbyes were delivered to Brown and his fellow workers, he had just one request, "send me a ring when you win it all."
The odyssey of Darryl Drake from a kid in Louisville, Ky., through assorted college jobs to The University of Texas was a trip of destiny. And the gift he brought to the kids here, particularly to the young African-American kids, has been immense.
"I'm not sure I'd fit Morgan," Drake joked. "I kinda pictured myself more a Denzel Washington type."
There is some truth in that. There is an element of Drake that fits the younger, dashing Washington, as well.
"I tried to be a father figure, and that was about respect," he said. "But I have also tried to be a brother, and that is about camaraderie."
The decision to leave Texas was not easy, particularly for a guy who a year ago had turned down a head coaching job at his alma mater, Western Kentucky.
"It was hard," Drake said. "Mainly because of the people. I've developed some great friendships here, and it has been overwhelming. Telling the guys was probably the hardest part."
Even though arguably his most famous pupils--Roy Williams, B. J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas--had caught their last passes in Burnt Orange uniforms, Drake sees the future as exceedingly bright.
"They are knocking at the door of a National Championship," he said. "It is only a matter of time. Offensively, everything is in place, and I really like the new guys on defense. Even though the receivers will be young, they are really talented."
If a staff is a reflection of its head coach, then Darryl Drake brought a piece of the mirror of Mack Brown that was special. He is a leader in a delegation of African-American coaches and administrators who have made Brown's staff a bench mark in race relations at a university once seen as unfriendly in some neighborhoods in Texas. Along with Associate AD Cleve Bryant, assistant coaches Bruce Chambers and Michael Haywood and significant personnel (including strength and conditioning guru Jeff Madden and life skills specialist Jean Bryant) in support services, Drake was a remarkable representative of the philosophy that the only color that mattered in Texas football was orange.
"I've been blessed," said Drake. "God has smiled on me, and he and my parents have given me something that is really rare. I never planned on being a coach, I never wanted to be a coach. It just happened. I thought I would be in the corporate world, or a counselor or something."
But for 21 of his young forty-something years, that's what he's done. At Western Kentucky, Georgia, Baylor and Texas, he has served well.
Of all the things Drake could have been, his mamma thought one of them was that he could have been a singer. And those who have heard him humming or singing just for the fun of it in moments of leisure or in an impromptu performance at a staff gathering would agree.
And if he had one song that would fit, it probably would be "Bridge Over Troubled Water," even though his rich baritone might not get the high notes.
But what we know about Darryl Drake, and the legacy he left us, is that what he created most of all for his players was a sanctuary. Most of all, with all of his wisdom and talent, Darryl Drake made you feel safe.
And, for a coach, that is the most important thing of all.