DRIVING TO STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Was there ever a cooler head at Penn State than Mike Robinson? The guy oozed suaveness -- like Billy Dee Williams in those Colt 45 commercials. Anyway, he's still the same old MRob. I spoke to Robinson earlier this week. Here are some excerpts that didn't make into my story about his relationship with Daryll Clark posted below:
You could tell Robinson was excited about the team's success this season and proud of his former teammates and coaches. "It’s great to be a Nittany Lions alum," Robinson said. "Those guys are playing their hearts out. I think they put the off-the-field distractions aside and they play hard for coach Paterno."
When I first asked Robinson why he felt obliged to mentor Clark he was very forthright about their peculiar situations. He said he felt obligated because he was one of the few black quarterbacks to have played at Penn State: "This is his first time starting for a big-time college program," Robinson said. "The thing he has to deal with a lot of quarterbacks at Penn State didn’t have to deal with was the color issue. Because he’s a black guy a lot of people didn’t think that he could do it. He’s definitely proven a lot of his critics wrong. He’s going through the same thing I went through. That’s why, naturally, I’m the right guy for him to go for advice."
Robinson agreed that Anthony Morelli was in a difficult spot replacing him. But he said it was no different for many other Penn State quarterbacks, including himself. "I always told Anthony that," Robinson said. "I said, ‘Anthony, ‘I had a tough job because I had to follow Zack Mills. He owned the passing records, he got Joe the all-time win record.’ I thought I was coming into a tough spot. But because of the losing season before my senior year, I could only do better. People weren’t expecting so much. What Daryll is coming into, they’ve had three winning seasons now. Now people are saying, ‘National title.’ And that’s what you have to think. You have to dream it. You have to believe it. You have to know that you’re going to win a national title."
Robinson talked about the stereotypes associated with being a black quarterback: "Just the fact that [Clark] is black people think he’s just going to run the ball," Robinson said. "That’s not fair. But Daryll is going to take what they give him. Daryll can move. He can move very well. He passed first to run effectively. I was more of a: ‘I know you all know I can run. I know you got to defend against that. Now I’m focusing on passing because I know I can run at any time.’ And Daryll is kind of in a reverse situation."
Asked if he though Clark resembled him in any way, Robinson had this answer: "He reminds me of myself a little bit," he said. "His leadership on the field, his leadership off the field. The way he takes command of the huddle. I told him, when I played quarterback I was a big stickler on you have to take control of the huddle. That’s your domain. He commands the respect of everybody and everybody respects him."
To illustrate what a cool hand Robinson was, wide receiver Deon Butler told a story earlier this season about Penn State's final drive in the 2005 Michigan game. Robinson came into the huddle and told the guys something like (Butler had to tone down his description), "If we score here, we're going to get all the ladies back in State College." Robinson laughed when I reminded him of this story. "In pressure situations what makes guys mess up is the fact that they’re so nervous," he said. "My whole thing is you can’t be nervous; you have to treat it like practice. So I treat practices like a game so in a game I can treat it like practice. So I try to make them laugh. I try to say, ‘Look, man, it’s a practice. You can go out and make every catch. We can go against any defense. You can run against anybody. Let’s just go out and play football.’"