Corey Robinson out of the shadow
Son of NBA legend David Robinson, Corey makes name for himself on football field
SAN ANTONIO -- Prior to 2012, San Antonio Christian's Corey Robinson was known as the son of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson.
But as the spring approaches, things are changing. Fewer and fewer are calling him "David's son." They're calling him "star wide receiver" or "top college prospect."
Or even just "Corey Robinson."
After a solid junior season, Robinson has turned himself into one of the most sought-after wide receivers in the country. At 6-foot-4 and a shade under 200 pounds, Robinson has multiple offers from major FBS programs, and he's received interest from a number of big-name schools that want to know more about him as a player.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
SAN ANTONIO -- The differences are apparent between wide receiver Corey Robinson and his father, NBA legend David Robinson. Corey is 6-foot-4. David is 7-1. David made his living playing basketball, where Corey favors football, tennis and soccer.
One similarity between the two makes for a direct result at why they both have seen success in their respective paths. They both are late bloomers.
The elder Robinson grew almost a foot from junior high to high school, from 5-9 to 6-7. He only played basketball his senior year of high school and chose to go to Navy after receiving minimal interest from college recruiters. He happened to grow another five inches in college and made himself into the star-power center that won two NBA titles and two Olympic gold medals.
The younger Robinson's résumé isn't as polished, but it definitely has some parallels.
At 6-4, Robinson -- who, himself, has grown roughly four inches in 18 months -- first played football two years ago after focusing his skills on tennis and soccer. What started out as something to do with friends has turned into an opportunity to play on an FBS level.
"I was a late bloomer. Even after high school and into college is where my body started to fill out," David Robinson said. "I was never uncoordinated but I started to get that strength with my size and use it. In the next two to three years, I think [Corey] is really going to find himself. Right now, he may think he's starting to feel it, but just wait."
In being a late bloomer, the physical aspect is something Corey has had to adjust to. Because of the other sports, he's always had agility and elusiveness. Playing football, however, has given him power, explosiveness and a new-found confidence.
From a mental standpoint, football has helped him to further understand discipline. Corey knows the best football players aren't the ones who take days off.
"We've got about five weeks until spring ball, and for most kids, spring ball is a time to refine some skills and get ready for August," SACS coach Bryan Marmion said. "For him, this can be his showcase.
"One strength has been his athleticism. God's given that to him. I think his willingness to mentally work has been his greatest strength. He has such a clear-cut idea of what he needs to do. The important thing is to just keep doing the things that got him here and to do those things at a higher level."
One thing that keeps Corey motivated is remembering how he felt when his first offer from Notre Dame was on the table. He's still new to the sport, but that offer served as his fuel to not only grind but also get as many offers from the nation's elite programs as possible.
Corey is hoping that by the end of the 2012 season, no one remembers anything about his slow start, only his incredible finish.
"I have to prove to the world every day that I'm supposed to be here," he said.
-- Damon Sayles
"Originally, I was having fun with my friends," Robinson said. "It was a sport I grew to love. Every year, I started loving it more, and if something came out of it, great. I put my mind to football, and it was kind of in the back of mind. I always thought if something big happened, cool.
"I'll be honest, I never really expected all of this."
Notre Dame was the first to offer, roughly a month ago. Two days after the Irish offered, Iowa joined the race. Navy, where his dad played college basketball, as well as Kansas, North Carolina and Wake Forest, quickly followed.
It's all happened so quickly. Tennis and soccer were his first loves. Basketball, which he considers "a lifestyle" rather than a sport because of all the time spent with his father, was also a passion. Those three used to take up most of his time athletically.
In fact, Robinson still shines in tennis and basketball for SACS. He was a state qualifier as a doubles player in tennis and played forward for SACS' basketball team in the TAPPS state tournament.
Put him on the football field, however, and it's impossible to ignore the passion, the same look his dad showed while with the San Antonio Spurs. There's a desire to get better and a noticeable drive to excel.
"Two years ago, his core strength was bad, his speed was bad he was very, very raw," David Robinson said. "Last year, he started working in the weight room, and his strength increased, and his running increased. I see him growing as an athlete. To me, that's the part I get excited about.
"Now, the idea is to get the skill set down, and he works hard with that. He really does try to think about how to run routes better, how to get open, what will separate him from other receivers."
On a team with a two-time all-state running back in Seth Kelly, Robinson finished his junior season with 42 receptions for 660 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged nearly 16 yards per catch and led the team in all receiving categories. All this was done on a SACS team that averaged nearly 200 yards rushing per game.
Robinson showed his ability to be a possession receiver by running crisp routes and studying defenders. He showed his ability to be a deep-ball threat using long strides to outrun opponents and his athleticism to win jump-ball situations.
Robinson also showed the ability to be a team player. When he wasn't running routes, he was blocking downfield. There are clips of him blocking 20 and 30 yards down the field to help spring running backs for long plays resulting in touchdowns.
"He's just a sponge. Why do we do it this way? How can I do this better? Why did you call that?" SACS coach Bryan Marmion said. "He wants to understand the concepts, not just the assignments. That's allowed him to adjust his routes better in coverages and put himself in a better position to be open.
"I know what he's capable of doing, and I've always felt if we could just get him an opportunity to get some people to see him, the college coaches wouldn't be sleeping."
Robinson had his first real opportunity to show his skills in January at the U.S. Army national combine in his hometown. His performances created some buzz, and that buzz spread quickly.
In addition to his current offers, Robinson also has heard from Texas, Stanford, Baylor and Northwestern, among other schools. The attention has become an adjustment not just for Robinson and his family, but for Marmion as well.
"This last year was only our eighth year playing varsity football," Marmion said. "We haven't had a Corey yet. He's breaking way for everybody else coming behind him."
Robinson added: "My dad was never really recruited heavily out of high school, so this is all new to me. I've been working hard the last two, three years, and I didn't know if anything would come out of it. God's really been blessing me the past month. Everything I've put in has really come to show."
What makes Robinson such an attractive commodity may go far beyond catching passes or blocking. The junior is a man of many talents. He has interest in studying business, biology and film in college, in addition to being pre-med. He's an accomplished musician who plays multiple instruments -- some of which he taught himself to play.
Athletically, he has a wicked net game in tennis. At 6-4, it's tough for opponents to get anything past him. On the basketball court, he feels there are many better players, but he holds his own with versatility and overall basketball IQ. Amazingly, he does all of this while holding down a 4.42 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. He's ranked No. 5 in his class academically.
"Academics are paramount for me," Robinson said. "If God takes sports from me and I get injured, I want to be well-rounded. I don't want to be just a football player. I want to be a scholar first."
"He's never thought of himself being overly athletic, and he's starting to break through in his mind that he's quick and he's strong," David said. "I'm seeing it on the field where he's thinking, 'I can take this guy in front of me.'
"With me, one time he caught a nice, 50-yard pass up the middle. He caught it in stride and kept striding to the end zone. That's the first time I looked at him saying, 'You're actually faster than I thought.' He was growing up on me. I think he's starting to realize what he can do, as well."
Corey said he's working on becoming an all-around player, physically and mentally, and he now understands there will be plenty of times where his number will be called on the field. It's a challenge he's more than willing to take.
To Corey, there's also pressure that comes with the territory -- and not just the pressures of being SACS' go-to player. He knows there are critics who will have the lone goal of comparing everything he does to his father, especially once he gets to college. It's an unfair comparison, but he knows it is a reality.
"I don't know if I'm the type of player my dad was, where I can go somewhere and bring them to national prominence like he did with Navy basketball," Corey said. "I want to go somewhere where I love the coaches and the atmosphere and where I feel comfortable. I'll be spending eight months there. I want to have a shot at going to the highest level of football.
"Sure, there's pressure, but the pressure's nice because it makes me work harder. I'm David Robinson's kid, and people don't really know me as Corey right now. That gives me reason to work. I want to be the best, and if I'm going to be the best, I don't want to be in the shadow."
The one thing that Corey hopes to inherit from his father, in addition to his never-ending work ethic, is his reputation for being humble yet disciplined. Through hard work, Corey hopes to one day have conversations with his father about what it was like playing professional sports.
"Believe it or not, I didn't want them thinking they had to be like Dad and follow my footsteps," David said. "I'm really happy he's playing football. He's exploring for himself, and he's making a name for himself. I couldn't ask anything else for him."