Notre Dame’s Robinson grows into big-play receiver

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame receiver Corey Robinson didn’t dwell on his potential game-winning touchdown against Florida State being taken away by a controversial penalty.

”At the moment I saw the flag, I said, `OK, next play,”’ said the son of former NBA star David Robinson.

Fighting Irish coaches say Robinson’s cool demeanor and work ethic is helping him grow into a big-play receiver. He’s second on the team with 27 catches for 539 yards and four touchdowns. He had two touchdown catches against Florida State and a key catch for a 20-yard gain on fourth-and-18 that kept alive the drive that gave Notre Dame a chance to win.

The 6-foot-5, 215 pound sophomore from San Antonio, Texas, could provide matchup problems when the sixth-ranked Irish (6-1) face Navy (4-4) at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Saturday. Navy, the alma mater of Robinson’s father, has only one starter in its secondary taller than 6-feet.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly describes Robinson as a solid player to coach.

”It’s fun as a coach and teacher when you get somebody that in so many ways is learning every day that he steps on the practice field,” Kelly said.

The knock on Robinson as a freshman was opponents could knock him around.

”I wasn’t very strong mentally or physically,” Robinson said. ”Sometimes in big moments, I broke down a little bit.”

Now he’s 25 pounds heavier and success has made him more confident. Irish coaches like how he’s mild-mannered off the field and fiercely competitive on it.

Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock pointed out how Robinson got into a tussle with a Florida State defender and then tapped the player on the shoulder pads afterward to compliment him.

”That’s just Corey Robinson’s personality,” Denbrock said.

Quarterback Everett Golson says ”He’ll kind of make a move on you and kind of embarrass you, but then he’ll come back and pat you on your back and say, `Good job.”’

Robinson once dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and attending the Naval Academy. He began rethinking that option when he got football scholarship offers.

He has a simple answer for those who ask why he chose football over basketball.

”I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t have any offers for basketball,” he said.

Robinson stops short when asked whether he might be the only 6-5 college athlete who can’t beat his father in basketball.

”Whoa, whoa. He’s aging,” Robinson said.

Robinson is one of more than a half dozen players on the Irish with famous fathers. They include receiver Torii Hunter Jr., whose father plays for the Detroit Tigers; Austin Collinsworth, son of former Cincinnati wide receiver and current NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth; Conor Hanratty, whose father, Terry, was a quarterback for Notre Dame and the Pittsburgh Steelers; cornerback Josh Atkinson, whose father George Atkinson Jr. was an Oakland Raiders defensive back; and walk-on cornerback Jesse Bongiovi, whose father is singer Jon Bon Jovi.

Robinson said the players occasionally talk about it.

”There’s not a club or anything,” he said. ”For us it’s like having a regular dad. Because a lot of people see it as, `David Robinson, that must be crazy.’ But that’s the only dad that I’ve known. It’s just dad to me.”

Robinson said this Irish team reminds him of the San Antonio Spurs teams his father played for a few decades ago.

”There are no individuals trying to be above everyone else. That’s one of the cool things this team has this year,” he said. ”We want to help each other be successful. Because we know as a team if we do well, individuals will have success. That’s one of the things I learned from the Spurs.”