Feb. 11, 2016

By John Heisler

University of Notre Dame senior-to-be wide receiver Corey Robinson has had a major impact on the Irish passing game in his first three seasons in a Notre Dame football uniform.

He has hauled in 65 passes (for 896 yards) over those three campaigns, including 40 (for 539 yards and five scores) in his 2014 sophomore season. The San Antonio, Texas, product made a name for himself in 2014 with two scoring grabs (among eight receptions that night) in Tallahassee against second-rated Florida State. His most recent outing in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State included three catches for 41 yards.

Yet, don’t think Robinson (a liberal studies and sustainability major in the College of Arts and Letters) came to Notre Dame simply to concentrate on football. He’s easily the most involved and most visible current Irish football player in terms of campus activities–based most recently on his election as Notre Dame student body president for 2016-17–and it’s hard to recall the last time a Notre Dame football player made more of an impact outside the athletic realm.

In fact, one of Robinson’s most notable resume achievement to date not only doesn’t involve football but also boats the potential to go far beyond the boundaries of the South Bend campus. (He also earned first-team Academic All-America honors in 2014 as the first sophomore in the country to win first-team recognition since 2008.)

One Shirt One Body.

Heard of it? If not, it’s quite possible that will change because Robinson and a former Irish track and field student-athlete have seen their program–which might have remained simply a Notre Dame campus enterprise–embraced by NCAA institutions all over the country.

The concept is simple: Collegiate student-athletes everywhere, at every school at all levels, end up with extra shirts among their official-issue athletic gear. “Gently used” becomes the operable term.

Robinson and Andrew Helmin, who ran the hurdles for the Irish, decided there had to be better uses for those items than as dust rags or closet clutter.

So, in part after Helmin (he’s from Frankfort, Illinois) attended the United Nations International Sports & Social Impact Summit last summer at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, he and Robinson came up with a concept: Collect all those used, last-year shirts and donate them.

But, Robinson and Helmin weren’t thinking this would be simply a local project. After all, how tough would it be to send an email to all Irish student-athletes, collect the shirts and deposit them at the Center for the Homeless in South Bend (which they did)? They had bigger designs than that.

Robinson and Helmin spent time strategizing with the Notre Dame Student Welfare and Development staff (with a strong endorsement from Jack Swarbrick, Notre Dame vice president and the James E. Rohr director of athletics)–with a grand plan of creating a program that could be replicated at colleges and universities all over the nation.

A week later they presented to the Atlantic Coast Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. They created their own action packet on how to run the drive. The ACC SAAC reps unanimously adopted the plan as a conference initiative and eight league institutions began participating last fall, collecting more than 2,000 shirts for their local organizations.

Suddenly, One Shirt One Body became a household name.

Robinson and Helmin didn’t stop there. Notre Dame athletic officials contacted the NCAA SAAC advisor, and Robinson and Helmin presented their plan in July in Indianapolis.

In about three weeks, One Shirt One Body went from a “maybe we could do this at Notre Dame” thought hatched with scribbles on note paper–all the way to a full-blown package schools everywhere could employ.

Last month, at the NCAA Convention in Robinson’s hometown of San Antonio, Texas, the Notre Dame duo presented the program to schools across the country. The NCAA that week partnered with Robinson and Helmin to collect more than 1,000 shirts and donated them to four IDEA Public Schools, part of a network of tuition-free charter schools in the San Antonio area (with 100 percent of graduating seniors over the last nine years attending college). Robinson’s father David has been a longtime member of IDEA’s board of directors.

One Shirt One Body now qualifies as a full-fledged nonprofit organization. Key to the program is the notion that each participating institution can make a difference in its local community by selecting its own homegrown recipient for the athletic gear.

“Corey’s no stranger to the Center for the Homeless having been here during his freshman year while in (former University president Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C.) Monk’s class,” says Steve Camilleri, executive director of the Center for the Homeless. “He’s been with us ever since and has such a heart for our mission. The One Shirt One Body program has had such a positive impact on our guests, and they delight in knowing how much these wonderful student-athletes care for them.”

Robinson and Helmin have lofty goals for their proposal. Far more than thinking this qualifies as little more than a clothing drive, they have plotted to use their athletic status as role models to allow the shirts to motivate recipients to pursue their educational goals. In effect, a shirt from Notre Dame or Texas would represent a symbol that would inspire kids to go to school, stay in school and take advantage of their educational opportunities. The program becomes a conduit for student-athletes to share their educational and athletic journeys.

The potential next step is for One Shirt One Body to provide not only athletic gear (to date more than 3,000 shirts have been donated) but also eventually scholarships to students with dreams of attending college. And, it certainly didn’t hurt when SI.com writer Pete Thamel worked with the Irish receiver to create Robinson’s first-person take on the process in a recent SI.com Campus Rush post.

The 10-page action packet Robinson and Helmin created is designed to provide any institution with the basics to make One Shirt One Body reality.

“How far can one shirt go? Let’s find out,” concludes an opening section on mission.

Robinson and Helmin note that if all NCAA student-athletes contributed two shirts to the case, nearly a million shirts could be donated.

“One Shirt One Body allows universities to say, `We’ve got your back’ to their respective communities,” reads the overview.

Robinson may be best known to Irish sports fans for his pass-receiving exploits.

Know that the senior-to-be has even grander global plans in mind.

Learn more about One Shirt One Body on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame.

Heisler produces a weekly football commentary piece for UND.com titled “Sunday Brunch,” along with a Thursday football preview piece. He is editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series. Here is a selection of other features published recently by Heisler:

— Troy Murphy: His Relentless Yet Fun-Loving Approach Did the Trick

— Sunday Brunch: Irish Officially Hot . . . But Shhh

— Sunday Brunch: Panthers Deliver Solid Impression of Irish

DeShone Kizer: North of Confident, South of Cocky

— 2016 Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame-Ohio State Preview

— Joyce Scholars: Connecting the Irish and Buckeyes

— One Final Version: 20 Questions (and answers) on Notre Dame Football

— Top 10 Things Learned About the Irish So Far in 2015:

— Brey’s Crew Receives Rings, Prepared to Raise Banner–and Moves On

— Jim McLaughlin: New Irish Volleyball Boss Is All About the Numbers:

— Men’s Soccer Establishes Itself with Exclamation

— Australia Rugby Visit Turns into Great Sharing of Sports Performance Practices:

— Bud Schmitt Doesn’t Need a Map to Find Notre Dame Stadium: