NOTRE DAME — As Corey Robinson jogged to the sideline after his first-ever collegiate touchdown, he didn’t have to look hard for a smiling, familiar face waiting for him.
That’s because his father, former NBA MVP David Robinson, stands a head above everyone else on the Notre Dame sideline. As special of a moment it was for Robinson to score in front of his dad, it was made even sweeter coming against Air Force, his father’s former rival.
The day before, Robinson had lunch with his father and a former Navy running back in a Colorado Springs hotel. Robinson listened as the two exchanged stories about their naval experience, and talk turned to Notre Dame’s upcoming game against the Midshipmen.
This week, Notre Dame takes on Navy for the 87th straight year, pitting Robinson against his father’s alma mater. Robinson just hopes his dad cheers if he scores again.
“It’s one of those taboo subjects. I’m trying to stay away from it right now,” he said. “I’ll probably give him a call tonight. It’s getting pretty close to the game. I need to give him a heads up that he needs to be wearing all Notre Dame stuff.”
The elder Robinson told The Chicago Tribune that he’s “absolutely” cheering for Notre Dame this weekend, putting his family above his former school. Placing family at the forefront is nothing new for “The Admiral,” though. When David Robinson vowed to attend every Notre Dame game this season, Corey raised an eyebrow.
“We play all over the country, so I’m like, ‘Good luck with that, Dad,’” Corey said.
But David has been a sideline fixture all season — whether in Notre Dame Stadium or in the heart of Dallas — surprising Corey perhaps more than anyone.
“There’s so many other things that he could be doing,” the freshman receiver said. “He has a lot of business things, nonprofits. There’s so much on his plate. Knowing that he takes the whole weekend off every weekend to come see me play. It doesn’t matter if I get five reps or 15, he’s always there.”
Robinson is slowly laying the groundwork as a reliable receiver and lethal target for quarterback Tommy Rees. He has only five catches and one touchdown in eight games, but the 6-foot-4.5 Robinson averages the team’s second-best yards per catch (20.2).
Robinson wasn’t a high-profile recruit last year, but one of the reasons head coach Brian Kelly wanted him at Notre Dame is because he could project Robinson’s potential.
“You have to project. You’ve gotta be willing to trust your instincts on some of these things,” Kelly said of Robinson’s recruitment. “He’s just bigger than everybody that he’s playing against. But we took into the fact his pedigree. We took into fact in how our individual meeting with him we were just struck with his intangibles and it’s that he was going to continue to grow and get stronger and he was going to want to achieve like he’s achieved in everything else, that this was probably a pretty good bet for us.”
The Robinsons don’t talk much football with each other. For one thing, Corey said with a laugh, his dad “doesn’t know anything about football.”
The two-time world champion, 10-time NBA All-Star does know a thing or two about handling the mental aspect of a high-level, highly-competitive game. When Robinson needs advice on how to bounce back from a bad game or a bad practice, his father can rattle off advice from his own experiences.
“He’s talked about the Olympics, the Dream Team, how it went going against those guys in practice,” Robinson said. “Incredible stories.”
When Robinson takes the field on Saturday, Nov. 2, he knows his father will once again be on the sideline. For those moments, Corey Robinson doesn’t consider David a former NBA great, or “The Admiral” or the face of so many philanthropic efforts.
On Saturdays, he’s just Dad.
“It kinda brings it down to earth,” Robinson said. “Son and father, having fun playing a game, and he can watch me.”