Slocum was born in Louisiana but grew up in Orange, where he was engulfed by the state's passion for football.
"The world's changed so much," Slocum said. "When I grew up, they had the Humble radio network, and we had only one TV channel, so the only game of the week you could watch was Southwest Conference football."
Slocum made a ritual out of scanning football scores in Saturday's newspaper.
"I'd look at all those scores, reading all those little towns like Tahoka and Dumas, places that I had no idea of where they were at," Slocum said. "Then to coach here and drive around to all those towns recruiting ... no telling how many high schools and stadiums I've walked into over the years. It's been fun."
Orange football coach Ted Jeffries, a member of the Texas High School Coaches Association's Hall of Fame, made sure Slocum had fun. And, like all of Slocum's coaches, he made an impact.
"Those guys have been so significant to me," Slocum said. "And I was fortunate because, over the years, I found out that not all coaches are good. I can honestly say that after meeting thousands of coaches, I didn't have a single bad coach. All the guys I had were good guys, demanding guys, but there wasn't a one of those guys who didn't care about me as a person. So I'm really indebted to them. That's the best thing that happened to me."
Slocum passed that experience on.
"I thought about that when I took the [A&M] job, and the things I emphasized with the coaches really were pretty simple," Slocum said. "No. 1, I didn't want people questioning how we did things, because this is a school that prides itself on the Aggie code of honor and integrity. The Aggies are people of principle - not all of them, but if you were to generalize what is your opinion of Aggies, most of those people are straight up, dependable, high character. That's what I wanted our football program to represent.
"No. 2, I always felt that the truest measure of a coach's success is if you were to track his players, and then see them in five years, 10 years after they've played in the program, to see what they're doing and to go up to them and say: 'Tell me about your college experience. What kind of influence was Coach Slocum in your career? What kind of things did he teach you?'"
If they were better because of their time in his program, "then I don't care what all the numbers are or what someone says about this or that."
From turmoil to stability
Slocum isn't coaching, but his methods are used at the collegiate and NFL levels daily.
Seventeen of Slocum's former players or assistant coaches are currently in the NFL, including Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak, who recently hired former Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman as his assistant head coach. Sherman is another former Slocum assistant.
Six Slocum assistants became head college coaches. Slocum's strength and conditioning coaches - Bert Hill (Miami) and Mike Clark (Seattle) - are in the NFL.
In the late 1990s, The Sporting News heralded Slocum as the nation's best at assembling a coaching staff.
"I'll tell you the kind of guy R.C. is," said Bob Davie, a former A&M assistant who is an ESPN commentator. "When I called him and told him I was coming [to the banquet], he thanked me. He told me, 'I wouldn't be going to Waco if it wasn't for guys like you. I've had a lot of quality assistant coaches and good, talented players.' I said, 'Yes, that's true, but a lot of people have talented assistants and players. You were able to blend their talents together. And, you did it with bunches of different coaches and different players. The one constant thing is you were able to bring them together and develop their talents.'
"It was his approach that was the difference."
Davie left A&M for the defensive coordinator position at Notre Dame, where he eventually became head coach.
"I got myself in trouble right off the bat at Notre Dame because from Day One I wanted us to be respected like Texas A&M," said Davie, who was fired after five seasons in charge of the Fighting Irish.
Davie wanted to reproduce at Notre Dame what Slocum had brought to A&M, though the two situations were much different.
When Davie took over at Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish had fallen on hard times on the football field. When Slocum took over at A&M, the Aggies had had trouble off the field, and Davie says Slocum doesn't get enough credit for stabilizing a program that had been scrutinized so heavily by the NCAA.
"R.C. Slocum is someone who I have the utmost respect for. He's what A&M represents. I'm sure, looking back, people might have thought he wasn't the flashiest guy, but he was solid. And that started with him putting a good, solid football program together in 1989," Davie said.
A&M won three straight SWC championships from 1985-87 under Jackie Sherrill, but in 1988, the NCAA pinned the Aggies with two years of probation for numerous violations, including improper employment, cash payments and a lack of institutional control. Sherrill resigned after the 1989 season when former Aggie player George Smith accused Sherrill of trying to buy his silence. Smith later recanted the allegation.
Some thought A&M would hire an outsider to clean up the program, but President William Mobley named Crow as AD and elevated Slocum from defensive coordinator to head coach.
"I don't think people realize or tend to forget how really turbulent a period it was," Davie said. "There was just a lot of unrest and uncertainly, but R.C. stabilized the entire program, and a lot of it had to do with the kind of person he is. I don't think a lot of people really understood how rough the sledding was."
Slocum went 8-4 and 9-3-1 in his first two years, beating Brigham Young in the 1990 Holiday Bowl. He then led A&M to three straight SWC championships.
With A&M's 2002 6-6 record as his worst, Slocum was the first Aggie coach since the legendary Dana X. Bible (1919-1928) to never have a losing season. He was 123-47-2 in 14 years, including a 78-28-2 conference record. He won an SWC-record 29 straight conference games at one point and finished with the one Big 12 championship, two Big 12 South titles, 11 bowl appearances and eight Top 25 teams.
He also coached A&M to 94 victories in the 1990s. Only Florida State, Nebraska, Florida, Tennessee and Penn State won more games that decade.
But for all of his accomplishments, Slocum was 29-19 in his last four years.
"The thing that I hate is I think I never really reached my [potential]," Slocum said. "In my mind, if you'd have asked me three years ago where are you as a coach, I'd have said I feel like I have the best of my coaching ahead of me. I'm proud of what we've done, but I'm dang sure not satisfied with it."
Slocum said he might've been too patient, that he should have lobbied harder for better facilities and changes in the curriculum, which would have helped recruiting in all sports.
"But I always felt we'd get those things done, like the Bright [Athletic Complex]," Slocum said.
What's next for R.C.?
All Division I coaching positions are currently filled, and Slocum will be 62 when the next wave of coaches retires or is fired, opening up a possible return for him.
"I miss coaching, but it's just getting the right matchup," he said.
Over the past three years, Slocum's name was mentioned when Baylor, Houston and Louisiana State hired coaches.
Former Oakland Raiders head coach Norv Turner also offered him a job, but Slocum didn't budge.
"I had concerns about living in Oakland and moving up there," Slocum said. "I felt I'd probably be happier coaching, but overall, me living in Oakland, just writing off Texas and Texas A&M and all my friends. ..."
Slocum said leaving his former players, who contact him daily, would have been difficult.
"It's a weighing thing, balancing feelings you have of saying I'm going to write everything off and I'm going to go somewhere and get me a coaching job," Slocum said. "But then one of the things that weighs on my mind is like with the Baylor deal. I'm all of a sudden going to go off and spend five years or eight years and end up as a Baylor Bear? And retire in Waco and hang out with Baylor guys? When you really play it out, which I tend to do, you say, it's inescapable that [A&M] has been my life. I can't go back and re-raise my life."
Each time Slocum said no, he become more entrenched in Aggieland.
"I've spent basically my whole adult life here," he said. "Virtually all of my friends are Aggies. Both of my boys are Aggies. Both of my daughter-in-laws are Aggies. My niece just graduated from A&M in December. My other brother's son graduated from here, and his wife graduated from here. My whole life is tied up with this. On home football games, almost all of the friends I have are going to Texas A&M's game.
"If I was to have walked away from all of that, I'd have basically walked away from most of my life. I tell people a lot of Aggies came here for four or five years and went away pretty well indoctrinated, so you can imagine what happens after 33 years."
Forever an Aggie
It didn't take long for Slocum to become an Aggie. He coached two years at Lake Charles High School, then two years at Kansas State before being hired as offensive ends coach in 1972 on Emory Bellard's first staff.
"He just wouldn't leave," Bellard said. "I was busy working in my office, but he kept sitting out there until I interviewed him. I finally figured that somebody that hard-headed and that determined, we should be able to use him on the staff. He should be able to recruit well."
Bellard said Slocum was a good recruiter and was organized. Slocum was elevated to defensive coordinator in 1979 by first-year head coach Tom Wilson, but in 1981, Southern Cal's John Robinson hired him, and Slocum helped the Trojans lead the Pac-10 in defense.
A year later he was back in Aggieland when A&M made national headlines by hiring Sherrill.
"I had a list of all the possible [assistant] coaches," Sherrill said. "I asked input from a lot of people - the administration, the alumni, the players. And R.C.'s name kept coming up."
Slocum molded A&M's defense, nicknamed the "Wrecking Crew," into one of the nation's best. The Aggies were No. 8 nationally in total defense in 1985, No. 6 in 1986 and No. 7 in 1987.
Then, following the 1988 season, Slocum got an endorsement for the head job from his boss, who was headed out of town.
"When I got ready to leave, I recommended two people - R.C. and John David Crow," Sherrill said. "Fortunately, they were hired and they were able to keep things going without missing a beat. R.C. had all the ingredients to be a head coach. He was an outstanding recruiter. And he had a good feel for managing a staff from his work as defensive coordinator."
Sherrill left College Station after the 1988 season and resurfaced at Mississippi State in 1991.
Slocum admits that most coaches leave town when they're fired, but so far he hasn't.
"Maybe I'm some weird guy," Slocum said. "Maybe it's part of my personality, being able to look at the big picture and say I'm not a petty person to sit around and fret over things that are done. That's history. For me to sit around and do that, I'd think I'd be the loser."
For those who believe there is something about Aggieland that gets in your bloodstream and never leaves, Slocum is living proof. For years, others, such as the late Don Powell, have seen it in him.
Slocum coached with Powell at Kansas State, and the two left the state of Kansas about the same time - Slocum to A&M and Powell to Saskatchewan in the Canadian Football League.
"[Powell] came down here once scouting players after their season, and I told him, 'Oh, you gotta stay for Bonfire. You gotta stay for Bonfire.'
"He said, 'Oh no, I gotta go.'
"I said, 'No, spend the night, just one more night and go to Bonfire.'"
Slocum took Powell to the Aggie Bonfire, but Powell wasn't as impressed with the spectacle as he was with what it had done to his friend.
"[Powell] said, 'Slopes, man, you need to get out of here,'" Slocum said.
"I said, 'What are you talking about?'
"He said, 'You need to leave here.'
"I said, 'Why, Pops?'
"He said, 'This is the kind of place that if you don't leave soon, you'll stay here the rest of your life, and it will be bad for your career.'
"I often laugh about that. He could tell from my emotions about Bonfire and everything else that I was already getting attached to A&M."
And even after being fired, Slocum's feelings for A&M haven't changed.
"It's bigger than any individual," Slocum said. "A&M is a lot deeper than one or two people. I'm not going to let one event wipe out a lifetime of positive things."
So he sells Texas A&M, beginning each workday by first tending to his cattle and three horses. His boots and stylish black cowboy hat make him look like a rich Texas rancher atop 14-year-old Gus, but he's surrounded by reminders of his football past.
His bull, for example, is named "Mack" after friend and Texas head football coach Mack Brown.
"I even told Mack that," chuckled Slocum, who wears a Big 12 Conference jacket as he does chores on the ranch, which holds 23 head of cattle. The cattle are identified by big, bright yellow tags on their ears, and the number on each tag represents a former player.
"Over there's Toya Jones," Slocum says, pointing toward the cow wearing No. 5. "Over there's Aaron Glenn [wearing No. 31], and there's Ray Mickens [wearing No. 24]."
R.C. Slocum spent three decades telling Aggie football players that they would be judged ultimately by how they handled life's biggest setbacks. Their big plays and victories would always be memorable, but the longtime Texas A&M coach told the Aggies that their major disappointments would reveal their true character.
"It's not the bad things in life that happen to you that are important," Slocum said. "It's how you react to them."
Three years ago, his former players waited to see how Slocum, the winningest coach in Texas A&M school history, would handle his toughest setback - being relieved of his head coaching duties.
Slocum remembers telling a solemn football team that he'd been fired, and during the meeting he reminded them - and himself - of his belief in handling adversity with character.
"I told them that I had a chance to see if I could live that myself," he said. "If I really did believe that, then I can really do that. And I said, 'I promise you I'm going to. I'm going to walk out of here and hold my head up, and I'm going to move forward and be positive.'"
Slocum has settled successfully into a new job as special assistant to A&M President Robert Gates. He also remains a part-time rancher on 330 acres in Milam County.
Last week, the former Aggie coach stepped back into the limelight when the Texas Sports Hall of Fame inducted him along with several others, including NFL greats Emmitt Smith and Tim Brown.
No longer a coach at A&M, Slocum remains busy in Aggieland. He has headed up task forces, sat in on search committees, helped with fund raising and represented A&M at functions. And when it comes to pitching the university, he may be A&M's all-time greatest salesman.
"It's not like I'm an expert on marketing," Slocum said. "Someone once asked me, 'Why would you be involved in this?' I said, 'You know what, there's not anybody around here who has marketed Texas A&M more than I have. For 33 years I've been in Panama. I've been in Hawaii. I've been in Mexico. I've been in New York City. I've been in San Francisco. I've been in Beaumont. So I've had tremendous feedback from all over the world about A&M and know what the shortcomings are and what the good things are.'"
One of his biggest fans is Gates, who relieved Slocum of his coaching duties.
"He's been a terrific asset to me as special assistant," Gates said. "Perhaps his most significant achievement is that he chaired the university-wide task force on communications that led to the establishment of the position of chief marketing officer and vice president for communications. The task force made far-reaching recommendations both in terms of improving the university Web site and how we better communicate what Texas A&M is all about."
Gates said Slocum has also made a "significant contribution" to A&M's capital campaign as well as its attempt at improving diversity on campus.
Slocum said the two have developed a good working relationship.
"He has been very respectful of me," Slocum said. "As a professional, he's complimented me on some of the things I've done, but he's also complimented me by assigning me some of the things he's assigned me. Really, there's only one decision that he ever made that I don't approve of, but all the rest of them, he's been pretty good."
Slocum's small basement office in the Hagler Center on campus looks more suited for a telemarketer than the winningest coach in Southwest Conference history. In his cramped work space, Slocum has just a couple of mementos from 30 years on the Aggie sideline - along with the 1998 Big 12 Conference championship ring he still wears.
But his trademark drawl and chuckle echo down the hallway, both part of the 6-foot-3, blue-eyed, silver-haired man who remains one of the state's most recognized icons.
"I can't think of another R.C.," said Tim Cassidy, now an associate athletics director at Nebraska who was a recruiting coordinator under Slocum. "If you live in the state of Texas and you've followed any football at all, you know exactly who R.C. is. He has that kind of name recognition."
Players from three decades attended Slocum's Hall of Fame banquet. There were All-Americans - Ray Childress, Richmond Webb, Dat Nguyen and Johnny Holland - as well as former walk-ons, trainers and managers who made the trip to pay their respects.
Wally Groff and John David Crow, the athletic directors Slocum worked for, also attended, as did several of his former assistants. So did a couple of his high school and college coaches.
Always a football coach