Notre Dame WR, president Corey Robinson a 'master juggler'

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

The president arrived shortly after 3:30 p.m. on Friday, dressed in a black sweater and khaki pants, strolling alongside vice president Becca Blais to a podium situated next to an appropriately-placed American flag.

From the top of the Isban Auditorium, Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly looked out on the crowd of bulky cameras and digital recorders. For once, their lenses weren’t pointed at him.

“Corey Robinson gets his own press conference?!” the seventh-year head coach joked.

Robinson certainly deserved it. On Wednesday, the senior wide receiver and Blais — his running mate — were elected Notre Dame’s student body president and vice president, respectively. It was the first time an Irish football player had ever held the role.

Maybe that’s because the widespread perception has always been that if you play football for a Division I program, you only play football for a Division I program. Football should be your devotion. Your addiction. Your days and nights and dreams.

As Wednesday’s election proved, Robinson has never prescribed to that theory.

“The problem is that there’s almost like this barrier, especially for football and basketball,” Robinson, who will officially take office on April 1, explained. “How can you go start a non-profit? How can you go start a business? You can’t get involved with student government.

“There’s this notion or stigma that you have to only do one thing year-round, and you can’t be excellent at something if you’re passionate about two things. You have to choose one. I think we’re actually crippling a lot of our student-athletes.”

Not Robinson, though. The son of NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson has 65 catches in his three-year Irish career, and just as many interests. He plays between eight and 10 musical instruments, depending on who you ask. He excelled in four sports throughout his upbringing — football, basketball, tennis and soccer. He could see himself being a professional athlete, or a teacher, or about a dozen other things.

For now, he’s a self-proclaimed “master juggler.”

“This past semester, I was taking 18 credits, I wrote my senior thesis, I started a non-profit, I was VP of SAAC (Student-Athletes Advisory Council) and playing football,” Robinson said. “For me, I just want to focus on two things, and that would be football and student body president, and eliminate a lot of my other commitments.”

Put it that way, and his fourth and final football season in South Bend may actually be less hectic than his last. This time around, he won’t be launching a non-profit, like the “One Shirt, One Body” initiative that donated collegiate student-athletes’ spare clothes to those in need. He won’t be taking as many classes, having already accumulated enough credits to graduate with a degree in liberal studies and sustainability before adding a minor in business economics next spring.

He can play, and he can lead. Kelly made sure of that.

“(Kelly) just wanted me to know that he needs a leader on this team,” Robinson said. “With Chris Brown leaving, Breezy was a great leader, a great friend, a great teammate. He said, ‘Corey, if you want to do this, I need you to know that I need you to come in like Breezy and fill his shoes and fill his role and really be a leader on the receiving corps.’ That’s what his main message to me was.”

Robinson’s continued presence wasn’t always guaranteed. Before he decided to run for student body president, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound receiver weighed other aspirations. He applied for the prestigious Fulbright and Rhodes scholarships, but came away empty-handed — for now.

“When I didn’t get the Rhodes or even an interview, that was something I was very humbled by,” Robinson said. “At the same time, I’m excited to go back (and apply), because I am a competitor. I’m sitting there, like, ‘What do I need to do? How can I go back and really attack the scholarship next year?’

“I want to get it. I have until I’m 25 to try to apply and get it. I want to go to Oxford. I want to study with the best and brightest minds. I’m not going to let one setback bring me down.”

Robinson also considered spending a year teaching in Brazil, where he visited for three weeks during his freshman year. He considered applying for the university’s ACE program (Alliance for Catholic Education), a two-year master’s program that would allow him to take classes in the summer and teach throughout the country in the spring and fall. He considered graduating in May and moving on.

He considered a lot of things, but he decided on student government — and football.

“It’s one of those things where you’re sitting at home after you lose a tough game to Ohio State, and you’re sitting there with your parents, your family, your friends,” said Robinson, who caught 16 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown in an underwhelming junior season. “You’re thinking, ‘Was that my last game? Is that the last time I’m going to wear the interlocking monogram on my chest, run out of that tunnel, wear the golden helmet?’

“To me, I just wasn’t ready to give that up. I wanted to come back. I missed the guys. I missed Breeze (Chris Brown). I missed Fully (Will Fuller). I missed AC (Amir Carlisle). I missed C.J. (Prosise). I missed all those dudes that I played with. Ronnie (Stanley). To think that I had the opportunity to come back and play with Torii (Hunter Jr.), play with Malik (Zaire) and these guys, DK (DeShone Kizer), and I gave it up, that was a really frightening thought.

“There’s so much that I love here. There’s so much.”

So he’ll stay. He’ll play and lead. He’ll push for campus-wide improvements in the five pillars of his presidential campaign — community engagement, health and wellness, sexual assault, diversity and inclusion and sustainability.

He won’t put limits on his potential. That’s now how he made it to his very own press conference, after all.

“Many people, when they hear ‘Corey Robinson,’ they think, ‘Oh, the football player,’” Blais said. “But it was very surprising to me to not think of him as a football player. When I think of Corey, that is not the first thing that comes to mind.

“I think of what a kind and generous person (he is). I think of what an involved person (he is) in the many areas that he has touched on campus and the many people he has touched on campus. It has surprised me that he is far from that first thought that people have.”


Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Corey Robinson (88) catches a touchdown pass in the end zone against USC's Iman Marshall (8) Saturday, October 17, 2015, during the USC-Notre Dame football game at Notre Dame Stadium. SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ