Nov. 12, 1999
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Today the Insider takes a look at assistant football coach Desmond Robinson, who recently was nominated for the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Today we examine Robinson’s coaching philosophy and his experiences with the Notre Dame in the final piece of this two-part series.
When Desmond Robinson assumed his position as an assistant coach at Notre Dame in 1997, he soon realized that he could no longer sit back in awe of the tradition.
He found himself part of it.
“It is a way of life because when you are here, you blend in with the tradition,” Robinson said. “I have a great deal of respect for the mystique and tradition but when you are here you do not constantly think about it.”
Robinson can remember waking up on Sunday mornings and having a hard time deciding between church and Notre Dame highlights. It was a struggle for him to get ready for church.
“It was a big problem in my household,” Robinson said. “My dad was always trying to get us out to go to church. There was always this conflict between us watching the Notre Dame highlights and us going to church. Back then going to church was not a popular thing for a kid my age so I would have rather watched TV.”
Robinson says that he no longer has time to stand in awe of the Golden Dome or Touchdown Jesus because he is so involved in actually running the program. He employs a coaching philosophy in conjunction with head coach Bob Davie’s. Robinson believes that in order to coach a player one must first treat them like a son.
“I know how I treat my son,” Robinson said. “I know that there are times when I have to be firm and then there are times when I have to give him a hug. I try to treat the players the way they deserve to be treated. One of the things is to be firm with them sometimes in order to get the best out of them.”
Robinson has coached some of college football’s top running backs. In his time at West Virginia he tutored Amos Zereoue. Zereoue earned first team all-Big East honors and Big East Rookie of the Year. Then last year, he watched as Autry Denson rushed his way into the record books, becoming Notre Dame’s leading all-time rusher. He surpassed former Notre Dame star Allen Pinkett in the record books.
This year the hype surrounds who will fill Denson shoes. Robinson currently coaches an array of talent including freshman standout Julius Jones. Jones’ brother Tom currently leads college football in rushing. Jones has had some outstanding performances thus far in his freshman year and is surprising many by competing for the starting spot at tailback.
“Desmond Robinson really liked him,” Davie said. “We had some other running backs that were maybe more highly recruited and who had received more national attention but Desmond liked him all along. He knew that this guy had a chance to be something special.”
Besides his regular coaching demands, Robinson also donates his time to lead the Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting every Friday night.
“He heads up our FCA,” Davie said. “He always delivers a great message on Friday nights.”
Robinson has been involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes for over ten years now. Every Friday night, he meets with some football players and discusses the culture of Christian athletes.
“We always deal with the physical side of football and this gives an opportunity to discuss the spiritual side,” Robinson said. “It gives us an opportunity to give a little coaching from the spiritual side as well. The kids enjoy it and we always have a nice sized group there on Fridays.”
Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a nationwide organization, which states its purpose as, “Presenting to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”
Robinson’s work with the FCA has also earned him notice, as he was nominated for American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year Award.
With all of the hard work and dedication to the program, Robinson insists that his focus his always on the kids.
This weekend, he heads back to his alma mater to play the last game ever in Pitt Stadium.
“It is special, even though I am not on the sidelines of Pitt,” Robinson said. “It is special because I have played so many games in that stadium. I am really sad to see that it is being torn down to be completely honest. I have a lot of fond memories at that place. They are memories that I will take with me for the rest of my life.”