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His coaching resume - at least his regular season coaching resume - begins when Eddie Robinson Jr. leads his Alabama State team into the 2022 season opener on Aug. 27 in Atlanta in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge against Howard University.
Now, his football resume is extensive. The former Alabama State linebacker was a four-year letterman for the Hornets, two-time Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and a key member of a 1991 team that finished 11-0-1 on the way to winning the Black College National Championship. He then spent 11 seasons in the NFL, played in Super Bowl XXXIV as a member of the Tennessee Titans and served as an ESPN college football color analyst for ten seasons.
Irshaad Davis, a senior cornerback at Alabama State and one of the SWAC’s top defenders, said the lack of coaching experience didn’t concern him when Robinson was selected as the program’s head coach on Nov. 26, 2021.
“He’s been in the league for 11 years, he played football all his life, this man knows football,” said Davis. “You know what I’m saying? It wasn’t just about coaching. I knew that he knew what it takes to win games. He played at Alabama State under Coach Markham. He’s won a championship there. He knows what winning looks like. He’s been at the highest level of football. I wasn’t concerned about him not coaching at all. I just knew that he had every tool to give us, in order to be successful.”
Dig a little deeper into Robinson’s resume, and you see plenty of success. After retiring from the NFL in 2002, he went into real estate investment while building his career as a TV analyst. At 28 years of age, he became the youngest inductee in the SWAC Hall of Fame in 1998. He ran youth football camps at Alabama State, Texas Southern and in the Houston Third Community. He also coached and mentored an inner-city baseball league in Houston and volunteered his time to the Real Men Read program in that city.
What he hasn’t done, though, at any level, is win a football game as a head coach, which means he is 408 victories behind a man that he shares a name with. The legendary Eddie Robinson, a SWAC and college football coaching legend, was 408-165-15 in his 42-year career at Grambling.
Last week, at the SWAC Media Day in Birmingham, a radio host wedged his way into a group interview that was beginning with the first-year Alabama State coach and proclaimed how much respect he had for his father. Robinson Jr. politely reminded him that he is not related to the Hall of Fame Grambling coach but he is from Louisiana.
“I used to get it a lot, especially when I played in the NFL with the national audience,” said Robinson Jr. “Playing in the [SWAC] and being from New Orleans, it’s just kind of one of those things. He was a great inspiration for me, back as a player, and also for me getting into coaching. I know his son and grandson. I still talk to his grandson from time to time. I’ve kind of known the whole family just going through the different bases [of my career].”
Robinson is embarking on what he hopes to become a successful career of his own. He feels he’s ready for the challenge.
“The thing about it, I’ve always been around football,” Robinson said. “I started playing when I was eight years old, never took any years off. Even though I wasn’t coaching, I was still broadcasting with ESPN. In that role, I’m talking to two different coaches every week. I’m getting a lot of different coaching philosophies, thoughts and inputs from a lot of different guys. I think the different aspects of everything I’ve done in my life, kind of prepared me for the moment, even though I haven’t actually stood on the sidelines.”
The urge to coach has been present since his retirement, Robinson said. He thought it would come in the NFL, possibly as a linebacker coach, but felt he could make more of an impact on the college level. He takes over a program that hasn’t finished above .500 since going 6-5 in 2015.
As an alumnus, Robinson has regularly attended Alabama State games, so, for the most part, he knew what the returning players were capable of on the field. He brought in some transfer portal players, perhaps most notably former Auburn quarterback Dematrius Davis, to assist areas of need. Most of all, though, he’s tried to establish himself as the program’s head coach.
“The players have to get to know you and trust you and see what you’re about,” Robinson said. “You have to show you’re a man of your word. It’s funny because most of the guys who I got negative reports about are kind of my favorite players now. You’re hearing about a certain aspect of what somebody else feels about him, but you have to give that kid a clean slate. I’ve heard this about you but now I’m going to judge you from day one and we’re going to start a relationship with me and you. Those players have ended up being leaders of the team and leading us in the right direction.”
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