The rain came a bit sideways Friday afternoon as the floor of the Carpenter Center filled up, as former Delaware football stars under blue and yellow umbrellas made their way into the place. The former vice president of the United States stood up and quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”
Joe Biden added, “Tubby Raymond cast a very long shadow.”
There was a time when Raymond’s shadow was the longest in the state, even past a junior senator with big aspirations, as Biden made clear. Biden had been a freshman football player, “a tackling dummy,” when Raymond was still a Blue Hens assistant.
This memorial service, a celebration of life for Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond, 1925-2017, brought back an entire community, in addition to three governors and numerous other dignitaries.
They weren’t just celebrating a man but a legacy. Tubby Raymond didn’t invent the Delaware Wing-T offense. That distinction belonged to his former boss, Dave Nelson. Raymond merely refined it to the tune of three national titles and 300 victories in 36 seasons in charge at Delaware Stadium.
“There are only a handful of coaches in the country who are even in this hemisphere,’’ said Rich Gannon, a Raymond quarterback who went on to 17 NFL seasons, and remembered how Raymond turned down offers to work at what now would be called Power 5 schools, or even the NFL, and how the likes of Ara Parseghian would pick Raymond’s brain. “He created something unique and special at Delaware.”
A video added remembrances from those who worked and played for Raymond, of a “gruff side — he could snarl and grown men would disappear and shut the office door,” and a creative side, which meant every senior got an acrylic painting of themselves, painted by the head coach. A man who had former players talking about how “this remarkable coach took us to destinations we never dreamed of.”
Talking on the phone this week, West Chester coach Bill Zwaan, a former Tubby quarterback, remembered how the offense and defense used to practice on different fields, how one time Tubby was over with the defense, when Zwaan heard this voice from at least 150 yards away screaming about how Zwaan didn’t carry out the fake.
“I turn around — where the hell is he?”
Two things about that, Zwaan said. He took that scream to his own coaching career, how Raymond “made kids think that he saw everything — ‘You know what, I can never practice lazy because he’ll see it.’ ‘’
The other point was that the QB fake was such an integral part of the Wing-T. Not getting it right could bring the whole enterprise down.
Zwaan said that with so many of the great coaches in college football history, you know their names but you couldn’t say exactly what offense they ran. Raymond and the Delaware Wing-T became synonymous, and remain so. Zwaan said he still uses blocking schemes from it, but the college game itself has evolved. Where he still sees the purest form of the Wing-T, Zwaan said, is in high school football.
“I see these teams that run the Wing-T exactly how Tubby wrote about it in a book,’’ Zwaan said. He has gone to clinics and suggested tweaks, and they come back, “Yeah, we tried that, but it worked better out of the book.”
The book is The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football, by Raymond and his longtime assistant and fellow offensive wizard Ted Kempski.
“There are times I’ll sit there, watching a game, even the New England Patriots, and I’ll see a play and say, ‘That’s out of Tubby’s book,’ ” Zwaan said. “Simply a misdirection, bringing the counter back the other way. That’s the Wing-T. So many things, they don’t even know were developed on Delaware’s practice field.”
At Friday’s service, Gannon broke out a sentence of Latin from his St. Joseph’s Prep days, repetitio est mater studiorum, repetition is the mother of learning. He was talking about the precision learned on Delaware’s practice field. In those 17 seasons in the NFL, Gannon said, “I can assure you I never experienced a training camp like the training camp I experienced at Delaware.”
The 2002 NFL MVP remembered being told he was the Blue Hens starter as a sophomore, and his fourth game, at Lehigh, the blame for that fiasco, Gannon said, fell on his five interceptions. He remembered the bus ride home in the dark, and seeing his head coach at the front of the bus, and dreading walking past Raymond to get off.
That day, Gannon said, his gruff head coach looked him in the eye and said, “I wish I were you — you have so many wonderful things ahead of you.”
The practices just never got easier. The shadow never grew shorter.
“But Saturdays were fun,’’ Gannon said. “Saturdays at Delaware Stadium were fun.”