Memorial honors legendary UD football coach Tubby Raymond

Tubby Raymond’s son, David, closed the memorial service for his father on Friday with an impassioned eulogy. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

NEWARK — Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond earned his place on the Delaware landscape by winning football games.

But, when it was all said and done, the University of Delaware Hall of Fame coach’s legacy can also be measured by the lives of the boys he helped turn into men.

Tubby Raymond

Hundreds of those former players, including former Vice President Joe Biden, came to the Carpenter Center to honor their coach at a memorial service for Mr. Raymond on Friday afternoon.

Mr. Raymond, who died on Dec. 8 at the age of 92, won 300 games and three national championships as the Blue Hens’ head coach from 1966-2001.

More than 1,000 people were on hand Friday, with former governors Mike Castle, Tom Carper and Jack Markell and current Gov. John Carney all in attendance as well as former Phillies’ owner Ruly Carpenter.

Mr. Biden was one of the keynote speakers at the event, held in the darkened basketball arena. He spent some time on Delaware’s freshman team when Raymond was an assistant coach before getting to know him well over the years.

Former Blue Hen quarterback Rich Gannon was one of the keynote speakers at the memorial service held for former Delaware football coach Tubby Raymond at the Carpenter Center on Friday afternoon. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

“There’s not many things in life where, merely by being identified with a man or woman, you gain prestige,” Mr. Biden told the former players. “Think about it, those of you who played for Tubby. ‘I was one of Tubby’s guys.’ It matters.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man,’” Mr. Biden said later. “And Tubby Raymond cast a very long shadow. Not only his players, but his coaches and the athletic department — anyone who came in contact with him knew what was expected of them.”

The list of former Delaware players who came in for the service was a long one. Former UD quarterbacks Rich Gannon, Joe Flacco and Scott Brunner were there as well as ex-player K.C. Keeler, the man who led the Hens to the 2003 NCAA I-AA national title after succeeding Raymond as head coach and who is now the head coach at Sam Houston State.

Mr. Gannon, who spent 17 seasons in the NFL, was also one of the main speakers.

“He created something unique and something special at Delaware — a team and a program that the entire university and state could embrace and could be proud of,” said Mr. Gannon, now a NFL analyst with CBS. “He could be tough and demanding, we know that. But all the great ones were.

“With Tubby, he really challenged you on the practice field. He really felt like, if you couldn’t handle the constructive criticism on the practice field, there was no way that you were going to be able to go out there on Saturday afternoons, in that pressure situation, and be able to function. So he was tough. But Saturdays at Delaware Stadium were fun because most of the time we walked off that field victorious.”

Former Blue Hen coach and player K.C. Keeler pays his respects to Tubby Raymond. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

A former NFL MVP, Mr. Gannon told the story of when, as a first-year starting quarterback, he threw five interceptions in a loss to rival Lehigh. Sitting on the back of the team bus, Mr. Gannon dreaded walking by Coach Raymond, who was seated in the front.

“I was embarrassed, I was humiliated, I didn’t know what to say to him,” said Mr. Gannon. “(But) I didn’t have a chance to say anything because he said something first — which I’ll never forget. It had such a huge impact on me and my football career and really my life.

“He looked me in the eyes and he said, ‘I wish I were you because you have so many wonderful days ahead of you.’”

Mr. Gannon said Mr. Raymond not only deserves credit for developing the Blue Hens’ trademark Delaware Wing-T but for his willingness to share his expertise with the unique offense. Everyone from high school coaches to legends like Ara Parseghian and Marv Levy would seek his advice.

Coaches from around the country came in during spring practice for clinics with Mr. Raymond.

“In today’s world of college and the NFL, we don’t want to share our secrets,” said Mr. Gannon. “We don’t want to share our innovation. We want to keep it to ourselves. Not Tubby.

“He’d open up his playbook, open up his secrets, open up his vault, open up all his research and share it with others. He took great pride in that.”
Video clips of interviews with other former players were shown during the 90-minute ceremony.

“Being with him in the locker room was inspiring and frightening, all at the same time,” said Mike Purzycki, the mayor of Wilmington.

“You just don’t get a coach staying with a program for 35 years anymore,” former standout fullback Dan Reeder said before the ceremony. “When I look back at Tubby, he was content to stay here. He was still a big fish in a real small pond.

“When I was in the NFL, every NFL coach knew who Tubby Raymond was. And when they spoke of him, it was in awe of what he accomplished and the innovator that he was.”

There was a slide show of photos from throughout Mr. Raymond’s career while a UD band played the fight song and alma mater. There was even an acoustic rendition of one of Mr. Raymond’s favorite songs, the Byrds’ 1960s classic, ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’”

The memorial service came to crescendo with eulogies from Raymond’s two sons, Chris and David.

The two brothers told anecdotes about their father and how much the school meant to him and their family. Mr. Raymond first came to Delaware in 1954 as the head baseball coach and an assistant football coach.

“We were born into Delaware football as much as the Raymond family,” said David, who was a punter for his father.

Finally, David Raymond ended the proceedings with a fiery finish that was reminiscent of one of his father’s impassioned locker room speeches.

“My dad was my coach, he’s your coach,” David told the former players as his voice started to rise. “My dad was my family’s hero. He loved this place and he loved each and every one of you. He is here today and he’ll always be.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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