Corey Robinson growing into football star, Renaissance man (cont.)
Not everyone came just for Corey. Running back Seth Kelley and defensive tackle Ben Adams received attention from small schools, but Corey alone received an invitation to attend the U.S. Army National Combine, a showcase for 500 of the nation's best underclassmen in San Antonio.
Modeled after the NFL combine, the high school version puts players through three days of testing and drills before college scouts. A dossier on each athlete develops, showing height, weight, reach, time in the 40-yard dash and so on. Players are rewarded with apparel, gear and a ticket to the U.S. All-American Bowl, a nationally televised high school all-star game.
The speed and athleticism on the Alamodome turf was dazzling. "I was a little intimidated," David says. "There were all these fast, really talented kids who had been playing since they were little."
Then there was Corey, a newbie. He didn't record the fastest time over 40 yards, clocking a best of 4.6 seconds, or run the best routes. But he proved his skills against the nation's best cornerbacks. Corey caught every pass thrown to him, and there weren't many who could out jump him. The combine provided perspective for a teen who plays against few Division I prospects in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools.
"I've never seen so many good wide receivers," he says. "I wasn't the best one there but at least I could play with them. It was a learning experience."
Corey blended with hundreds of others, but his 7-1 father stood out. Reporters swooped in for interviews and the retired San Antonio Spur known as The Admiral obliged, beaming like a proud father in the Alamodome. The following morning, Corey's combine appearance drew a brief mention in the Express-News, which dubbed him, "Little Admiral."
The Little Admiral impressed Northwestern, Vanderbilt and Rice. Air Force and the U.S. Naval Academy also expressed interest. Stanford will send a coach to scout Corey during spring football. The University of Texas at San Antonio watches closely. A strong senior season may yield offers from larger schools.
What a turn of events. Less than a year ago, Corey was focused on Annapolis. On every visit with his father, Corey enjoyed the campus, the culture, the atmosphere of Navy football games. He even enjoyed meeting his father's friends at a 25-year reunion. "They're all really successful," Corey says.
The future plebe, however, became a prospect. On Nov. 10 against Fort Bend Christian, Corey sprinted down the right sideline toward the end zone. The spiral from sophomore quarterback Turner Goudge soared high and a bit left. Corey rose over his defender, as if reaching for an alley-oop, made a fingertip catch and fell in for the score.
The spectacular became routine. The calls from Texas and Kansas, the overtures from Stanford and Northwestern, were impossible to ignore. "Dad, what should I do?"
The Admiral smiled. Corey has options at 16 David never had at 18. Dad played one year of high school basketball in Virginia, made all-district and graduated virtually unnoticed, a 6-7 math geek who scored 1320 on his SAT.
It's a long way from 16 and high school to 22 and the NFL. But Corey wants to take a chance.
The five-year service commitment the Naval Academy requires would make him 27 before he could play pro ball. The Navy made an exception for David, allowing him to serve only two years as a submarine base engineer before releasing him to the NBA. But exceptions are rarely granted. "My dad was fortunate," Corey says. "I don't know if that could happen to me."
The best and the worst happened to Napoleon McCallum, a contemporary of Corey's father. An All-America running back at Navy in 1984 and 1985, McCallum played six years in the NFL. As a rookie, he split time between the Los Angeles Raiders and Naval duty in Long Beach. Then he spent five years out of football, serving his country, before returning to the NFL. A gruesome knee injury in 1994 ended his career and nearly cost him his leg.
Anchors aweigh? Like a ship disappearing on the horizon, the Navy vision has vanished. A new dream has emerged, glimmering in the distance. Corey wants to play pro ball, yes, but he also wants to pursue music, film and medicine. He wants to learn new languages, play new instruments, visit new places. "And I do want to serve my country," he says.
The Admiral says his son is growing into a Renaissance man, a wonder of eclectic interests and exquisite skills. How does a high school junior manage so many activities, maintain his grades and stand out on the field?
"Laser focus," the father says. "He's probably the most focused 16-year-old I've ever seen. He'll come home, do his homework, his laundry, the dishes and go to bed at 9. I'll say, 'Let's go play, relax a little.' He'll say, 'Come on, dad. I've got this paper due.' He's very disciplined. He doesn't like things out of order. He has a strong personality, strong character. I could send him to college right now and he'd be fine."
The son only looks small when he stands next to his father. No one knows how much more Corey will grow -- one, two, three inches? -- but the genes suggest he might keep stretching in college. David grew six inches after high school.
Corey is growing in his second sport. An injured hamstring from football cost him the first two months of the basketball season. He worked his way into the lineup slowly, didn't start until Saturday, the 37th game of the season, and makes no pretenses: "I'm not that good."
He's better than he admits, better than the 7.5 points he averages as a forward. Corey can rebound, block shots, score inside, get up and down the court. His dunks electrify. The injury, though, set him back, and the Lions found their way without him, becoming one of San Antonio's surprise teams. Under new coach John Valenzuela, the Lions installed a new offense and began beating some of the biggest schools in town with pressure defense and deadly three-point shooting.
No, Corey didn't sit on the bench. He stood in front of it, pumping his fist, leading the cheers.
After one victory -- a game in which Corey did not play one minute in the second half -- Valenzuela recognized him at practice. No one pulled harder for the Lions, the coach said, than the guy who refused to stop yelling and sit down.
Valenzuela hasn't coached Mr. Inspiration long. But he loves the kid, and for reasons that transcend basketball. "Corey has solid Christian values," Valenzuela says. "He comes from great parents. He's the type of kid I'd want my daughter to marry."
When the day comes, Corey could compose and arrange the music for his own wedding. He loves jazz, listens to oldies, enjoys Beethoven and Bach. His appreciation of classical music has inspired him to take up a new instrument. The violin.
The young man does not paint or sculpt. But he remains an artist, always exploring and always creating, a symphony of sound.
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