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EDDIE Robinson's career illustrates the importance of refusing to accept the limitations that others would impose. And of the role that perseverance plays in success. These elements also produced success for baseball's Phil Niekro, who at 46 now has won his 300th game, two years after his former team believed his career over.

The football coach of Grambling College since 1941, Robinson last weekend became the winningest college football coach of all time, with 324 victories. Over 200 Grambling players have become professionals.

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More important, in building from scratch a successful football program at the predominantly black institution, he has refused to accept disadvantage -- including poverty and race -- as an excuse for mediocrity. He tells players to learn to deal with disadvantage during college, to prepare for what may follow.