It was NCAA11 and a couple of very eager boys that brought me to really get to know Jason Robinson just before midnight on August 11th in the electronics section of WalMart.
Having to be out at midnight with my kids, standing in WalMart waiting for a video game was only tempered by knowing from Twitter that Jeron Johnson and Jamar Taylor were going to be stopping by to pick up a copy as well. It was there, while we were waiting for midnight that I first saw JRob.
The kids were excitedly people watching when we saw him walk in alone. "Who's that?" the kids asked. "Not sure honey. Does he play ball?". We watched him walk off unassumingly to the hardware section where he picked up a fan, took it to the price checker and then placed it into his cart. "I don't know. I thought maybe he was with Jeron, but I don't see him. I guess not?". Obviously in your mind, football legends don't go to WalMart to buy a room fan like you and I do, and Jason Robinson is a football legend to Bronco Nation.
Jason Robinson will probably be best remembered on the field for the Riddler play in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl, where he called for the slight change in the play that pulled his man off of the line and allowed Efaw to catch the pass from Brotzman which was the turning point in the Bronco's win over the Horned Frogs. A solid contributer on defense and special teams, Robinson had the coveted honor of carrying the hammer into the stadium to bring the team onto the field.
Unfortunately, he might be remembered off of the field for the scuffle in a Boise bar in February that led to his arrest and suspension from the team for the beginning of his senior year...
And this was where we first met JRob. Having just learned of his three game suspension, coming off of what undoubtedly was a very difficult time for him personally.
In walked Johnson and Taylor and the kids promptly mugged them. Sara Jane wanted her Boise State jeans signed, the boys wanted their copy of NCAA11 signed, I wanted to talk about the DC trip. The unassuming guy with the fan in the cart was indeed with these guys. Awkwardly I said, "I'm sorry honey. You're going to have to tell me your name." He smiled at me and looked down and said "I'm Jason Robinson". Quietly, politely, perhaps apprehensive of what I would say - not the voice of a guy who should be remembered for a bar fight.
All of my preconceptions about what happened in February slipped away. As a mother, I saw a guy fighting for his chance to make it back, to redeem his second chance. As a girl who made more than her fair share of mistakes as a 21 year old, I saw myself, hoping not to be judged for my mistakes but by my effort to come back from them.
I hugged Jason and told him that we were all cheering him on and that I couldn't wait to see him play against New Mexico State.
JRob did come back. He picked himself up and has had a great senior season where he's played in each of the 8 games since the suspension. He's forced a fumble on special teams vs Hawaii and had an interception vs Fresno State and has combined for 18 tackles.
He was the first person to send me a congratulatory message when I signed my contract with the wire service to photograph the games.
Jason Robinson has the heart of a champion. He's shown us a great example of how to learn from your mistakes and become a person of great character because of them. My children will make mistakes, they will make decisions that cause them regret. From JRob, they will know that those mistakes don't define you. Where you go from there does.
JRob, I am so proud of you. Bronco Nation is proud of you. Thank you for everything that you've given to our program and our community. Once a Bronco, always a Bronco.
God bless you in everything that you do. We'll be here cheering you on the whole way, my friend. xoxo