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Alexander: Honoring Terry Donahue, UCLA football legacy

Former UCLA football players gather at the Rose Bowl to unveil a statue honoring former coach Terry Donahue.

Homecoming weekend at UCLA is a special time for the football team and its alumni. Before the game against Colorado, a group of former Bruins gathered at the Rose Bowl to honor their former coach, Terry Donahue, as his statue was unveiled. This statue is the fourth on the stadium grounds, joining the likes of Jackie Robinson, the 1999 U.S. Women's National soccer team, and Keith Jackson. Donahue's statue is located outside the tunnel to the home locker room, symbolizing the legacy he left behind.

The timing of this event is particularly poignant, as it comes just days after the passing of Charles E. Young, UCLA's fourth chancellor. Young was instrumental in hiring Donahue as the head coach in 1976. Donahue, a local product who walked on at UCLA, embodied the "gutty lil' Bruin" image that became synonymous with the program. His tenure as head coach saw great success, with four conference championships, multiple AP Top 10 finishes, and seven bowl game victories, including three Rose Bowl wins.

What makes Donahue's accomplishments even more impressive is the context in which they were achieved. UCLA faced budgetary constraints and bureaucratic red tape that hindered its ability to compete with other programs. However, Donahue and his team found a way to succeed, doing more with less. Former players and colleagues remember Donahue as a relentless competitor who thrived on the spirit of competition. He aligned himself with like-minded individuals who shared his passion for the game.

Donahue's impact extended beyond UCLA. After retiring as head coach, he worked in television and the San Francisco 49ers front office. In 2013, he launched the California Showcase, a combine for high school football players that has helped numerous underrecruited players secure scholarships and financial aid. Donahue's legacy is not just about wins and losses, but about the lasting impression he made on his players. They remember his sayings, his unique coaching style, and the life lessons he imparted.

As the ceremony came to a close, former players gathered around Donahue's statue for a group photo. They then broke into the UCLA fight song, a tradition reminiscent of their victorious locker room celebrations. The lyrics may not have been sung, but the spirit and passion behind the U-C-L-A chant were as strong as ever. Donahue's impact on the program and its players will be felt for generations to come, as they strive to uphold the values he instilled in them.

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