Big Greg’s debut should make our community proud

Nicholls hoops hungry for more
August 14, 2014
Athletes learn to swim to honor fallen friend
August 14, 2014
Nicholls hoops hungry for more
August 14, 2014
Athletes learn to swim to honor fallen friend
August 14, 2014

I’ve said it multiple times before, but I’m going to say it again – the absolute best part of this job is being able to see young men and women grow and evolve as people.

It’s a feeling of pride that is hard to describe, and it’s even more difficult to put into words. But as a Sports Editor of a community newspaper, it just feels good when one of the student athletes in this area gets into the real world and makes something of themself in the real world. It’s a feeling of happiness that is hard to describe, but I think most journalists in similar positions as myself would agree that this pride I’m explaining is a real feeling in our world.

Some that I’ve covered have become nurses. On many occasions, I’ve told the story of Nicholls women’s basketball player, turned nurse Jasmine Hoskins – a true story of survival and perseverance that was filled with many ups and downs along the way.

Others have become teachers like fellow former Colonel Ashley Adams, who is about to begin her first year in the Lafourche Parish School System. Yet, still others have evolved in their social lives and have succeeded in the most important job of all – parenting. In this realm, Terrebonne’s Sierra Lyons comes to mind. She traded in her career as an All-State athlete in three sports at Terrebonne to be the proud mother of a now-3-year-old beautiful baby girl.

But on the rare occasion, I get to cover a student athlete that doesn’t have to get a “normal” job and is blessed with the God-given ability to continue playing his/her respective sport for a living. When that happens, it’s an achievement that often rallies a community full of people who watched the young man/woman grow up in our streets, eat at our restaurants and go to class in our schools, while competing against other children in our area.

So for those reasons, I sat and smiled a giant smile this past Friday night as I watched former Thibodaux High School graduate Gregory Robinson make his NFL debut as an offensive lineman with the St. Louis Rams.

We’re happy for you, Big Greg! And we wish you all of the success in the world going forward.

Greg Robinson is special.

When I first started with the Tri-Parish Times, I was 22. I had just gotten out of LSU, where I covered Tigers’ football for three seasons. See, being at LSU is tons of fun, because you get to cover a load of high-stakes games that are played on national television.

But you’re also covering athletes who have been around the spotlight for their entire lives – young men and women who have been taught by Sports Information Directors to fear the media and the troubles that their interrogations could bring to a locker room or a sporting team.

So for that reason, I came back to this area with a bit of cynicism about the importance of newspaper to a student athlete’s life. I sort of just accepted the fact that journalists were universally disliked around sporting programs, and I was seemingly OK with that.

But Big Greg showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. He showed me just how important a role a community journalist can have in the area he/she serves.

See, when I got back to this area, Thibodaux football was experiencing a frenzy of talent within its walls. Trovon Reed had just gotten done with a dominant, All-American senior season and had signed with Auburn.

Robinson was the next in line, a powerful junior offensive tackle that had an offer from every powerhouse program in the country because of his athleticism and versatility.

Because of my December arrival, I missed all of Robinson’s junior season, but I met him in the spring of 2010 when he was a shot putter for the Tigers’ track team. He won gold easily at every meet. It wasn’t even fair. His throws would soar galaxies past anyone else’s. He just had too much upper-body strength for any high school athlete to deal with.

So in the middle of Robinson’s junior season (which ended in a Class 5A State Championship in shot put), I did a write-up on Greg, detailing his endeavors in both track and more importantly football.

Upon speaking with Robinson for the first time, I realized that he was nothing like the student athletes I experienced at LSU. He wasn’t guarded – he answered questions honestly and was forthright. He also wasn’t used to being interviewed. He was downright shy and intimidated of the entire process. But more important than it all, he was genuinely excited that I thought enough of his talents to do a feature story on him.

The story we ran on Robinson ran on Wednesday, April 28, 2010. It was a front-page story that had a large profile picture of Robinson’s massive body slinging a shot put. When it came out online, Big Greg messaged me on Facebook and asked me to give him a few copies to share with his family. I complied and agreed to meet him at his track meet the following day to give him the story.

So we met, and I handed him the stack of papers. He opened it up and saw his picture and beamed with pride, almost breaking down into tears of joy.

“Thanks, Mr. Casey,” he said to me on that day. “You have no idea how much this means to me.”

He folded up the papers and gently placed them in his athletic bag and went about his business for the day, winning his usual gold medal in the shot put on that day.

Never had an LSU player complimented, nor appreciated my work – they were trained that I was the bad guy. But to Robinson, being in the newspaper was a huge honor, and seeing a 6-foot, 7-inch, 300-plus pound big guy be brought to tears by my work is something I’ll never forget.

Of course, after that day at the track, Robinson then became an All-State offensive tackle his senior season for Thibodaux, who evolved to an All-American offensive tackle for Auburn’s BCS National Championship runner-up team this past year.

And now, of course, he’s in the NFL and is making the big bucks – finally able to provide financial support to his family, who has struggled for years to make ends meet – one of the biggest reasons Robinson left Auburn after just his sophomore season.

But no matter how it’s sliced, nor how his pro career ends up, Greg Robinson is a winner – a genuinely good person who deserves the successes that will come his way.

Keep up the good work, young man!

We’re having a blast watching you shine.