Corey Robinson’s father, former NBA star David Robinson, follows him around every week to different sites in order to see his son play as a freshman wide receiver at Notre Dame. With the Irish traveling to Arlington, Texas, to play Arizona State this week, he won’t have to travel too far to catch a glimpse of his son.
Notre Dame freshman wide receiver Corey Robinson said he is learning the concepts of Notre Dame's playbook as he becomes a more all-around weapon in the Irish offense.
“My dad, he’s my biggest fan,” the freshman said. “I remember him saying that my grandpa followed him to every game. He drove from Maryland to all the Navy games and he said it was kind of annoying at first, but then he realized how important that was to him to have his dad at every game.
“He’s trying to do the same for me. We play all over the country, so I’m like, ‘Good luck with that, dad.’ It brings it back to high school for me where I can run out and see my dad and see my mom and then everything else just goes away and I play football.”
Children growing up in Texas don’t exactly dream of someday playing for Notre Dame. There are only two choices in the Lone Star State: burnt orange or maroon. Robinson, however, bucked the trend and traveled hundreds of miles north to South Bend, Ind. With his older brother a junior at the University of Texas, the easy decision would have been to stay in state. But he didn’t do that.
“I was thinking about staying in Texas and being with my family, going to [San Antonio] Spurs games,” Robinson said. “That’s a really big thing for me, my whole life I grew up in the arena. If I couldn’t watch the games, that’s a pretty big thing. In the spring [as an early enrollee], I got used to watching them on TV and it’s the same. The Spurs are still the Spurs and that’s the biggest thing to me.
“My brother comes up to the games too so it’s not a big deal. For me, I was focused on the academic side plus football when I just saw Notre Dame’s resume, it was really hard to put that aside plus the mystique and the tradition. For me, it outweighed all the other Texas schools.”
Through the first five games of the season, Robinson has earned a reputation as Notre Dame’s ‘jump ball’ receiver. While using his 6-foot-4 frame has accelerated his schedule to get on the field, Robinson said his overall work as a receiver has improved.
“The coaches try to make everyone be able to play every position, so I’m just trying to get back to the ordinary things and be able to do the route running and the blocking and not just do one thing well by jumping up,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure I become a more well-rounded player and I can see every day that I’m getting better at the little things and being a complete wide receiver.
Players often cite route-running as the most challenging part of their learning curve as a first-year performer, but Robinson said it’s understanding the concepts of play-calling rather than the routes that have tripped him up at times.
“In January I was trying to memorize routes, but then they’d put you in a different position and you’re like ‘I don’t understand this,’” Robinson said. “You mess it up and you get yelled at. Now it’s trying to totally change my mindset from memorizing, ‘the X does this, the W does this,’ to more of the field concepts, the boundary concepts. Now you can play the whole offense. Only in the past month or so since camp have I understood more concepts. Once you understand the concepts it comes much easier.”
Robinson went from finishing the Michigan State game as the team’s leading receiver that day to not catching any balls in the 35-21 loss to Oklahoma. He said he’s remained steady and avoided the highs and lows of his first month playing.
“For me, that wasn’t really my mindset coming in and it’s still not my mindset,” Robinson said. “For me, it’s how can I contribute to the team, whether that be in practice or three plays in the game or 10 plays, it doesn’t really matter as long as I can help my team win in whatever way that is. If they need me to block, I’ll go block. It’s not about me being the leading receiver, it’s about Notre Dame getting the W at the end of the day.”