Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

GAMEDAY: A'Shawn Robinson is a big guy with a bigger heart


If he does, his former Arlington Heights High School communications teacher, Vicki Stellar, might have to find a job watching game film.

“Yes, I have watched that game probably three times,” Stellar said. “I mean, it was the most amazing game for him … I’ll probably watch it 10 more times before next weekend.”

The junior has been an impact player for Alabama since he first took the field, and his great season isn’t going unnoticed. Robinson is currently one of 20 semifinalists being considered for the Chuck Bednarik award, which is given to the defensive player of the year.

If he wins the award, most of Robinson’s highlight reel could come from the LSU game. There’s one play in particular that caught the attention of his former Select basketball coach Deborah Johnson and the rest of the country.

“When he jumped over that line the first thing I thought is that’s one of them basketball moves, I thought that was great,” Johnson said.

Stellar enjoyed the play so much she said she took time out of her day Monday to show it to every single class she taught that day.

“[When he blocked that kick, I was] just mouth wide open like nah-ah, he did not just do that, ” Stellar said. “All I was thinking is I am so glad he did not land on one of those LSU boys. He would’ve killed them. It was just amazing.”

Robinson’s mother Abigail missed seeing the play live, but others made sure she saw the replay.

“He played like the Pittsburgh Steelers guy [Troy Polamalu],” Abigail Robinson said. “We just said it’s like high school all over again. He’s doing so much out there.”

The “so much” included taking snaps on offense for the first time this season. Coach Nick Saban said the team worked on the package featuring A’Shawn Robinson going out as a blocker for running back Derrick Henry earlier this season, but it was scrapped until a week ago.

“We just felt like we’ve been down by the goal line a couple of times and didn’t score [this season],” Saban said. “We’ve always had big people, we just haven’t used them as much. I think A’Shawn’s athleticism really helps us in a situation like that, especially not having a whole bunch of tight ends that are big guys.”

Stellar said she usually just watches the defense play, but she can’t stand the thought of missing a play No. 86 was involved with, so she’ll watch the offense now in case Saban puts him out there to “plow over some people.”

Henry said he never doubted Robinson’s ability to help him find the end zone. He knew Robinson wanted to make the most of his time on offense.

“Oh yeah, he was very excited,” Henry said. “During practice, he kept saying, ‘Come on, let’s go. I’m going to get you in there.’ He did a great job on Saturday.”

When Abigail Robinson spoke to her son after the game, she said he was excited about the team’s performance. The defense had listened to people praise Fournette for weeks. When Alabama held the Heisman hopeful to 31 yards, it meant a lot to Robinson.

A’Shawn Robinson would prefer to acknowledge the contributions his teammates made instead of focusing on himself.

“Really, it was just a team effort of us doing our job dominating our box, and it really helped us to get off our blocks for our linebackers to come up and make plays,” Robinson said.

However, he was a big reason for the defense’s success. He even managed to make the highlight reel – again.

“When he took that [Leonard] Fournette boy, it was like he body-slammed him on the ground like he was a wrestler,” Stellar said.

Making a choice

He might have the build of a talented football player, but there was a time when Robinson imagined himself dunking basketballs instead of tackling running backs.

He began playing under Johnson when he was eight years old. Johnson said she knew he was going to be a great player from the beginning.

“You just show him what you wanted him to do and you just worked with him for a little bit,” Johnson said. “He eventually picked it up like it just came naturally to him.”

In high school he helped his team reach state twice in his four-year career. Even now, it’s a sport he likes to play whenever he gets a chance.

“Basketball is like his mistress,” Abigail Robinson said.

Johnson said she knew A’Shawn Robinson would end up playing football as his primary, if not only, sport. In fact, one of the few times Johnson saw Robinson show a lot of emotion was when he was playing football against one of his basketball teammates, Terrance Cook.

“Everyone was trying to tackle him [Cook], and A’Shawn was like ‘Hold him up, hold him up let me hit him, let me hit him,’ ” Johnson said. “[Cook] just dropped to the ground. He was like I’m not going to let A’Shawn hit me. ”

Robinson might miss his first love, but when the scholarship offers came in, football just seemed like the logical choice.

“I never made him pick a sport, I told him ‘let it pick him,’ ” Abigail Robinson said.

When coaches like Nick Saban are willing to make the trip to visit your school, it’s safe to say the sport has made its choice, but Stellar said she never pictured him going to Alabama. At one point he even introduced her to then Texas head coach Mack Brown.

“I found A’Shawn [the day before he signed], I said ‘Okay I need to talk to you,’ “ Stellar said. “It was just the two of us and I said, ‘Do I need to get a different color shirt tomorrow?’ ”

When Robinson told her she might, she nodded. She might be a fan of Texas, but she was a bigger fan of Robinson, so she wore her Alabama shirt proudly the next day at school.

Abigail Robinson said her son ended up choosing Alabama because he felt like it was a better fit for him. She said they never imagined he would face that kind of decision years ago.

“We just took it one day at a time, one year at a time,” Abigail Robinson said. “He just shot for his dreams.”

More than an athlete

The awards, the highlight reels and yes, the scholarships are all nice, but Abigail Robinson wants more for her son.

“I’m proud of him all the time,” Abigail Robinson said. “Just with him having a humble and kind heart. He was raised in church, so he loves God.”

A’Shawn’s heart is what drove him to return to his old high school over the bye week. Almost as soon as he got home, he knew he had to see his former teacher.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to me when he walks in that door, and I see that big old body come through, and he’s just got a beautiful smile on his face,” Stellar said.

In Stellar’s classroom, Robinson seemed at ease. He gave Stellar a bear hug, and he asked her how her grandchildren were doing, and he wanted to see their pictures.

When the two met, Robinson had a baby face and a man’s body. Even with all his success on the football field, Stellar has difficulty seeing Robinson any differently.

“He’s just a kid to me,” Stellar said. “Just a big teddy bear kid.”

Teddy bear, right. Tell that to Fournette.

After he looked at her grandchildren, the two discussed not football, but academics, and what Robinson would like to do once his football career ends. He’d like to be a broadcaster for ESPN. The entire time the two chat, the kids in the room stare in disbelief.

Before he left, Robinson also told her he had one more person he had to see before he left town. Spencer Conte attended both Arlington Heights and The University of Alabama. On his most recent trip home, Robinson spent a lot of time with his now-paralyzed friend. As he was leaving, he left one of his Sugar Bowl jerseys on Conte’s door.

“I think the thing that I really, really love about A’Shawn is he’s humble,” Stellar said. “He is the most giving boy.”

His mother can tell anyone all they need to know about her son in a few words.

“He’s a tall guy with a big heart,” Abigail Robinson said.

More to Discover