Brushing up on Tubby’s legacy: Coach’s artwork made lasting impact on his players

Tubby Raymond painted a small portrait of a different senior each week during the season. (University of Delaware Athletics photos)

They knew a painting was going to appear on the locker room wall the Thursday of every game week.

And Delaware’s football players knew the picture would be of one of that year’s seniors.

But exactly when their own portrait — done by coach Tubby Raymond — would show up was always a mystery.

“It was kind of like, ‘OK, who had a good game? Who’s going to pop up next?’” remembered former Blue Hen running back Rodney Organ, a Dover High grad. “It was kind of exciting to walk in and go, ‘OK, who’s up on the wall?’

“I guess I wasn’t expecting it,” Organ said about seeing his own portrait on the wall. “Other guys had been in there (the locker room) before me and they were like, ‘You’re on the wall.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ It was an honor. … It was definitely something you’ll never forget.”

A lot has been said about Tubby Raymond since Delaware’s retired Hall of Fame football coach passed away at the age of 92 last Friday.

Clearly, the sometimes-firey, Wing-T virtuoso inspired lasting loyalty in the legions of young men who played for him.

Raymond left many of those players with a very tangible link between themselves and their time in the program — each players’ senior portrait.

It’s a well-known story among Delaware football followers.

Going back to his days as a Blue Hen assistant coach in the 1950s, Raymond painted a small portrait of a different senior each week during the season.

They were fairly small paintings of the player’s face. Next to them would be some motivational saying from ‘Dick the Chicken’ about that week’s game.
To be sure, some of Raymond’s paintings probably ended up in the back of closets as players grew up.

But countless other portraits ended up framed and hanging in places of honor in offices and dens.

And at times like this, those paintings are a very real reminder of the bond those ex-players had, not only with Raymond, but with the hundreds of other guys who played for him in the 48 years he spent coaching the Hens.

Magnolia’s Bob Daddio was a defensive lineman for Delaware from 1988-91. The Connecticut native stayed in the First State, where’s he’s worked for the state police for 24 years.

Daddio had his Raymond painting framed.

“You walk in the locker room and everybody’s like, ‘There you are, up on the wall,’” Daddio recalled. “You’re like, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ Friday you would take it down and take it with you. I always made sure it was in a secure spot.

“Obviously, he was very talented. But you don’t even look at it in that respect when you are young, at that age. You take it down, you bring it back and you put it away. It’s probably not until 20 years later that you’re ‘That’s pretty artistic.’ And it’s something that not everybody has.”

When he heard of Raymond’s passing, former Delaware coach K.C. Keeler tweeted photos of both his Raymond portraits — one when he was a player and one as coach. Keeler said the paintings hang on the wall of his office at Sam Houston State, where he’s now the head coach.

“Two portraits he painted hang in my office as a daily reminder that every day I’m striving to be as impactful a coach as he was,” he wrote.

Bryan Bossard has his own perspective on Raymond’s paintings. The Dover High grad played for Raymond in the late 1980s and then coached with him for six seasons in the 1990s, the last decade of Raymond’s career.

Bossard was excited as any player when his senior portrait appeared in the locker room. But it was as a coach that he got to see what Raymond put into each painting.

“That was kind of his ‘mental’ time,” said Bossard, who’s now the offensive coordinator at Caesar Rodney High. “We would see him start working at it. He would put it up, work at it. Put it up, work at it. Just watching it come together, it was pretty unique, it really was.

“For the guys who didn’t frame it, shame on them, because that’s a piece of history, a piece of a legacy. … You kind of treasure it. And the older you get, the more you treasure it.”

And just like those paintings took on more meaning over the years, so did many players’ memories of their time playing for Raymond.

Those memories are even more special now that he’s gone.

“I was talking to my cousin after Tubby passed away,” said Organ. “He saw the article outlining his (Raymond’s) whole career. He was like, ‘Man, you played for a guy who was a legend. Don’t take that lightly.’ It’s something to definitely be proud of.”

Coach Tubby Raymond is carried off on his players’ shoulders following his 300th and final win as Blue Hen coach in 2001.

Tubby tales

When someone coaches as long at one place as Raymond did at Delaware, there’s no shortage of stories and memories from some of his former players.
So here’s some other memories that stuck out for the former players with downstate ties.

•••

On Raymond’s tradition of reading off the name of each starter, just before kickoff of each game:

“To get your name announced for the first time, I can’t explain to you how that made you feel,” said Bossard. “It was just a rite of passage. When he finally said your name, and everybody was high-fiving … you can ask anybody, that’s when you feel like you finally have arrived, you finally have become a player.”

•••

On meeting Raymond for the first time as high school recruits:

“I meet with Tubby in his office and he had these cowboy boots on and he’s got his feet up on his desk,” said Daddio. “He’s like ‘Oh, so you want to come to Delaware.’ I was like, ‘Sir, yes, I’d like to play ball here at Delaware.’”

“I remember sitting in his office with my mom in the old Field House,” said Organ. “I remember just pictures and awards all around his office. I’m supposed to be paying attention to what he’s saying, but I’m just looking around going, ‘Man, look at all these trophies and team photos and photos of players.’ There was just stuff everywhere on his wall. You couldn’t fit another picture or trophy.

“It’s one thing to hear about it. But sitting in that office, and seeing all of that stuff, that when it was like, ‘Man, this guy’s been around and won.’ It kind of hit me then.”

“Coach, his line to recruits was, ‘Hey, we’re going to win with you, or we’re going to win without you,’” said Bossard. “‘What do you want to do?’”

•••

On Raymond’s ties with college football’s history:

In the old days, Bossard said it wasn’t unusual in the football office to see Raymond had gotten messages from people like former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian or former Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy.

Bossard said he also remembers asking Raymond why, in Delaware’s offensive numbering system, players were numbered from right to left rather than left to right.

“He stopped for a minute,” said Bossard. “And he said, ‘Because Amos Alonzo Stagg did it that way, that’s why we did it that way.’ I’m like, this dude is quoting Amos Alonzo Stagg. That’s how far how back he went. I never forgot that.”

•••

On the advantage the Wing-T gave the Hens, especially against opponents who weren’t used to seeing it:

“You didn’t know what was coming, who was going where, the misdirection,” said Organ. “Especially when we played a team outside the conference and you see their linebackers or DBs talking and the confusion. That’s when things start clicking to you about carrying out your fakes like the coaches said or ‘Be here instead of there’ because they haven’t seen this before.

“We had an advantage. You knew, once we got to the playoffs, there was going to be a difference. It was the advantage of the unkown. You can’t get ready for that in a week.”

•••

On Raymond’s gift for motivating players:

“He would give it to you when you needed it,” said Bossard. “As a coach, you can’t ‘rah-rah’ every game. But when we needed the rah-rah, he was on it. … He could always turn it on. He had the knack of being able to relate to kids, even when he was getting older.

“I felt like we kind of got brainwashed that we’re better than what we are — special. I think that was some of his magic.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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