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November 1, 2013

Robinson goes against the grain

For most of his life, Corey Robinson planned on following his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps to the Naval Academy. It was all he had ever known. His father, NBA Hall-of-Famer David Robinson, graduated from the Academy in 1987, and after his retirement in 2003, regularly returned to Annapolis for basketball reunions with little Corey in tow.

“I always visited with my dad for his basketball reunions and all that stuff,” the freshman receiver said. “I really loved the atmosphere there.”

The elder -- and taller -- Robinson tried to subtly talk his son out of the Naval dream. Casually, he and former classmates would sprinkle horror stories into conversations with Corey.

As much as the younger Robinson liked what he saw on those reunion weekends, he didn’t jump at the thought of 5 a.m. wake-ups, physical training in addition to varsity practices, and rigorous class schedules.

Then, seemingly with no warning, a challenging alternative presented itself.

“When Notre Dame offered me, I kind of opened my mind up a little bit. I checked out some other possibilities, came up here and saw how incredible it is,” Robinson said. “Then I had to say, ‘Sorry, Pops, I’m going in a different direction.’”

Only then did Corey realize his father had manipulated him just as he had manipulated countless basketball opponents over his career. Now, however, Corey’s choice presents David with a dilemma: Cheer for his alma mater or for his son.

“I need to talk to my dad about this,” Corey laughed. “Make sure that he’s wearing my jersey or wearing Notre Dame or something. I think my grandpa, who also served in the Navy, might be wearing Navy.”

For Corey, once Notre Dame made a scholarship offer, the decision followed easily. Navy had not offered the growing receiver a scholarship. Actually, neither had any other school in the country. Notre Dame was first. Once the Irish did so, others followed suit, trusting Irish coach Brian Kelly and his staff’s judgment.

“That was really a big vote of confidence and trust, that they saw me becoming a player that could contribute to the program,” Robinson said. “After that, a couple more came in, just randomly. They didn’t even talk to me or try to see me. They just offered me because Notre Dame offered me. It was cool to get that first one.”

Robinson has taken advantage of what Notre Dame and its football program has to offer. Through eight games, he has five receptions for 101 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown last weekend at Air Force for the first score of his collegiate career. He also played an integral role in Notre Dame’s 17-13 victory over Michigan State when he caught three passes for 54 yards and induced a pair of interference penalties.

Obviously having preferred that first offer to any others or a family legacy at the Naval Academy, Robinson finds it makes his relationship with his father more conventional. Instead of the David Robinson most people think of -- two-time NBA champion, NBA MVP, two-time Olympic gold medalist, etc. -- at Notre Dame he is Corey’s dad, attending each and every game.

“Watching him play when I was a kid, and his dad watched him play, and now he’s just being a dad,” Corey said.

While his father may be just being a dad, he often does it from the sidelines, as his 7-foot-1 frame would block the view of most seated behind him.

“It just kind of brings it back to earth,” Robinson said. “Son and father having fun playing the game.”

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