David Robinson would cut an imposing figure on the Notre Dame football sideline even if one was completely unaware of his past athletic prowess or his nickname of "The Admiral", earned during a stellar college basketball career at the Naval Academy followed by 14 years of stardom in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs.
But at Notre Dame, when it comes to famous fathers of players on the field, the 7-foot-1 Robinson pretty much blends in while watching his son, freshman wide receiver Corey Robinson.
That’s because the current Fighting Irish roster also includes:
|George Atkinson III||In 11 appearances this season, 1,246 yards of total offense with three touchdowns.|
|Jesse Bongiovi||Two-time letterwinner in football at Poly Prep High School in New York ... earned three letters in lacrosse as well.|
|Josh Atkinson||One tackle in three appearances this season.|
|Austin Collinsworth||In nine starts, 28 tackles and an interception.|
|DaVaris Daniels||In 11 appearances this season, 41 catches for 641 yards and six touchdowns.|
|Torii Hunter Jr.||As a high-school senior, caught 71 passes for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 89 yards.|
|Corey Robinson||Six receptions for 118 yards and one TD in three starts this season.|
• safety Austin Collinsworth, son of former National Football League standout and current NFL television analyst Cris Collinsworth;
• running back George Atkinson III and cornerback Josh Atkinson, sons of former NFL player George Atkinson;
• wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, whose father Phillip played 14 seasons in the NFL and now serves as director of player development for the Washington Redskins;
• injured wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr., son of long-time Major League Baseball player Torii Hunter;
• and last but certainly not least, Jesse Bongiovi, a walk-on cornerback who is son of mega-rock star Jon Bon Jovi (whose real last name is Bongiovi).
“It’s pretty wild, how it all panned out,” Austin Collinsworth said of having all the famous dads milling around the Notre Dame program. “It’s kind of nice because you don’t as an individual get as many questions like, ‘Is it weird? What’s it like?’ Because there are so many of us and everybody is used to it by now.”
Of course of the current group, Collinsworth may be most comfortable because as a senior he’s been around the longest.
He, George Atkinson and Daniels also play the most for the Irish, who are 8-3 heading into Saturday’s game against Stanford. After battling injuries for much of his career, Collinsworth has started nine of 11 games and has 28 tackles. Atkinson is the team’s second-leading rusher with 554 yards on 89 carries for three touchdowns and an average of 6.2 yards per rush; and Daniels is the team’s second-leading receiver with 41 receptions for 641 yards and six touchdowns.
One thing all the sons of famous dads seem to have in common: When it came to deciding where they wanted to go to school, the famous dads pretty much left the final decision up to the kids.
“I think my dad’s greatest fear was to push me to go to a place where I didn’t want to go, where I would end up unhappy and that then I would blame him,” said Austin Collinsworth, who eventually narrowed his choices to Notre Dame and Stanford before choosing the Irish. “So he stayed almost completely out of it. I had to practically beg him to give me advice on which school he thought I should go to.
“But he was great. He was always there and he always went on the visits with me. But as far as pushing me any certain way, he really didn’t at all.”
Corey Robinson, a freshman, said he grew up thinking he would attend the Naval Academy like his father. It was sort of a family tradition, as an uncle also went there and his grandfather spent more than 20 years in the Navy.
But in the end, David Robinson subtly and perhaps unintentionally guided Corey elsewhere.
“My dad loved the Naval Academy and always says it’s a great place to graduate from. But of course it’s pretty demanding,” said Corey Robinson, who has appeared in three games this season and has five catches for 101 yards and one touchdown. “Because of my dad, my uncle and also my grandfather serving in the Navy for 20-something years, I always thought that was where I wanted to be.
“But my dad would always tell me what he did – the military stuff, plus basketball, plus school. And when I finally got to the age where I could choose to go somewhere, I really started weighing all the things I would have to do versus the time I would have to do them. I had never really thought about time before; when you’re that young, you think you’ve got all the time in the world. But when you start thinking about the military, plus basketball or football and school, you start to wonder when you’re going to sleep and how much. I didn’t like the combination.
|George Atkinson||Set the Raiders' single-game record for punt return yardage in 1968 with 205 yards against Buffalo.|
|Jon Bon Jovi||Has released two solo albums plus 11 studio albums with his band, Bon Jovi. To date, those albums have sold more than 130 million units worldwide.|
|Chris Collinsworth||A second-round pick in the 1981 NFL Draft, played his entire professional career for the Cincinnati Bengals then became an Emmy Award-winning sportscaster.|
|Phillip Daniels||Played three different positions at Georgia: defensive tackle (sophomore), linebacker (junior) and defense end (senior).|
|Torii Hunter||Five-time MLB all-star, won nine consecutive Gold Glove awards as an outfielder and has won two Silver Slugger awards.|
|David Robinson||Two-time NBA champion, league's MVP in 1995, considered one of the greatest centers in league history.|
“Then I visited Notre Dame,” Robinson said. “It was a beautiful place with amazing people and an incredible tradition. It was really hard to turn that down.”
Robinson said he got to know Hunter Jr. when they were in high school and ended up rooming together at a football camp prior to Robinson’s junior season.
“We roomed together and I didn’t even know who his dad was. I don’t really watch baseball.” Robinson said, chuckling. “Anyway, we started talking and he said, ‘Yeah, my dad’s still playing.’ And he knew who my dad was, but I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Then we laughed and were like, ‘Wow. We both have famous dads.’ But we bonded that first time we met.”
Hunter, who currently is being redshirted after suffering a broken-leg injury in a high-school all-star game in January, also intends to play baseball at Notre Dame. Corey Robinson committed to the school first and implored Hunter to join him.
What could have been an awkward moment for the Robinson family was averted earlier this month when Notre Dame beat Navy 38-34. Corey admitted he was worried at first that some family members might be tempted to wear Navy-emblazoned clothing to the game.
“They were all wearing Notre Dame gear. There were no traitors, so that was good. ... They were all decked out in No. 88 Notre Dame stuff,” Robinson said. “My mom had that on lockdown.”
Austin Collinsworth, meanwhile, had a hand in getting Jesse Bongiovi to come to South Bend, Ind., although it didn’t take much. Bongiovi has said he wanted to attend Notre Dame and play football for the Fighting Irish since the time when he was in eighth grade and got to attend a game in South Bend and walk the Irish sideline with his famous father.
Collinsworth said it’s great to have all the famous dads around. (David Robinson attends every game and often can be spotted on the sideline). But what is really special, Collinsworth added, is that all the famous dads and their sons seem to be remarkably down-to-earth.
“I mean, David Robinson is a guy who’s pretty hard to miss on the sideline. He’s a pretty impressive presence, a huge guy, and it’s awesome to see him so supportive,” Collinsworth said. “I actually hosted Bon Jovi’s kid when he came up on his visit. So I got to know him before he even signed to come to school here. And I got to know his dad a little bit, too.
“They’re all great guys. We’re really blessed not only to have all that star power around the team, but we’re just blessed to have them as high-quality people around the team. I can’t speak more highly of them.”
Corey Robinson said he could not agree more.
“It’s really cool to be able to say that, because at the end of the day, even though we all have famous dads, none of us play that card,” Robinson said. “We all love our dads for what they do for us, what they did as athletes, and the enthusiasm they have for us as athletes. But most of all, I think we love the fact that they have let us be our own individuals.”