Nov. 15, 2002
Last year at this time, freshman Nate Robinson was preparing for his senior season with the Rainier Beach High School basketball squad. Robinson, the son of former Husky tailback Jacque Robinson, led Beach to a state championship and top-10 national ranking by the end of March. A year later, Husky fans can only hope that the first-year corner can light the same spark for Washington's defense as they prepare for a tough two-game stretch of road games at Oregon and Washington State. So far, Husky fans are giving the thumbs-up to Robinson, who struggled in his debut at corner, against Cal, but seemed to improve markedly the next week, when he used his basketball skills to beat Arizona wide receiver Bobby Wade to a jump ball on a crucial third-down pass. Over the past three games - Robinson's first three starts of the season - the Huskies have surrendered just three touchdowns through the air, after giving up at least three in each of the previous three games. Last week against Oregon State, Robinson grabbed the first of hopefully many career interceptions to help slam the door on the Beavers' comeback bid, and this week makes his first trip to Autzen Stadium. Here's what the two-sport star had to say about his evolution on the football field this season, his excitement for Husky basketball, and his love of E.L. Fudge.
GoHuskies.com: What's it like to be a true freshman in the starting lineup?
Nate Robinson: "It's a big role, because they are a lot of older players on the team that have been doing this for a long time. This is my first time, but it's one of the best things in the world. It's a wonderful feeling."
GH: Besides being a true freshman, you are also a little smaller, at just 5-foot-9. What do you have to do on the field to show opposing receivers that you mean business?
Robinson: "I don't take nothin' from nobody. You just have to hold your own, really, just get out there and play. If somebody hits you, you've got to hit them back. Like my dad told me: 'You've got to hit a bully first for them to stop messing with you.'"
GH: Your first time out, Cal's Kyle Boller beat you deep a couple of times, but since then, you've been solid. What are you doing differently now that you weren't doing then?
Robinson: "I wasn't really focused in that game. I was kind of out of it, so when I went in and took my two plays, I got shook one play, and then I was beat for a touchdown on the next one. I felt like I let my family - my team - down, so I said, 'I'm not going to do that again.' The next week I just got better and better all week long. I wanted to really focus and communicate with everybody so that I could go out there and play my heart out, and have fun."
GH: How was it when you finally pulled down your first interception?
Robinson: "It was lovely! I was robbed of one at Arizona State, but the Oregon State game was nice. I got to run a little bit and shake a couple of people. Getting my first interception of my career in college football was one of the best feelings. I'm speechless right now trying to explain it; I can't, really. It was wonderful."
GH: When you intercepted it, it looked like you had a seam through which to run. Did you see the end zone and think to yourself 'I'm going to get a touchdown!'
Robinson: "I was thinking that, but then a guy for Oregon State fell in my way so I thought, 'I can't go that way, I'll cut back and go to the other side.' By then, though, some other guys came from behind me. It's alright, though - a 15-yard gain is cool with me."
GH: Once football season is over, you're planning on joining Washington on the basketball court. How hard is it for a college freshman to succeed in two sports?
Robinson: "Well, I don't know yet until I start playing hoops. People say it's difficult, but you've just got to make things happen. If things don't go well, you've got to make them happen, got to keep fighting. Like Coach Neuheisel says, 'Tough times never last, but tough people do.' I'm a tough person, so I've got to last."
GH: If you had to do just one, which would you play, football or basketball?
Robinson: "Basketball is my favorite sport."
GH: What has been your favorite memory this year?
Robinson: "My favorite moment, actually, was when all the freshmen had to report to camp. We played all the coaches at softball, and we beat the coaches. We were the first group to ever beat the coaches; that was the best time. Then, when we went to go ride Jet-Skis at Coach Neuheisel's house, that was pretty cool, too."
GH: Your dad played here and did very well; do you think you're in his shadow at all?
Robinson: "You could say that, but he played offense and I play defense. It would be different if I was a running back, then I would have a lot to look up to, but I'm on the defensive side of the ball. I've got to make a name for myself."
GH: Do you get tired of the media always asking about playing two sports, or asking questions about your dad?
Robinson: "Naw, I love it. Now, they know who my dad is and they can say, 'Oh, yeah, your dad did this,' or, 'Your dad did that.' I've now got to go out there and do the same. When my kid comes to UW, I want it to be 'Your grandfather and your dad came here, and did these things.'"
GH: As I was looking through this year's Husky men's basketball guide, I noticed that in your 'Fast Facts,' your favorite food is cookies. Tell me more!
Robinson: "You know those Keebler Elf cookies, the white ones with the chocolate fudge? Those are my favorite cookies. My mom usually gets them for me before every game, but I usually have a whole stack of cookies. I have a couple; I give some to my friends. I eat a lot of candy, too."
GH: Besides cookies, I notice you're always wearing a different hat ...
Robinson: "Yeah, I have a lot of hats - maybe 57 hats. I collect hats and basketball jerseys, stuff like that."
GH: What's your favorite hat?
Robinson: "Baseball hats. My favorite teams are the Oakland A's and the Seattle Mariners, because my dad and I lived in California, and I love Oakland and Seattle teams. Seahawks, Sonics - I wear all Seattle stuff so whenever I go somewhere people know I'm from Seattle."
GH: What jersey do you favor right now?
Robinson: "For Seattle right now I've got a Gary Payton jersey, a Shaun Alexander, Koren Robinson, and an Ichiro."
GH: Anything else you want to say for the fans?
Robinson: "I just want to say hi to my mom, my dad, and my brothers and sisters."
GH: I didn't know you had a brother. Does he play for Rainier Beach, too?
Robinson: "Yeah, he's 16."
GH: Does he look up to big bro? Are you one of his role models?
Robinson "You could say that. He's trying to beat all my records at Rainier Beach now. It's his turn."
GH: Is he ever going to get them?
Robinson: "Hopefully. He's got a real good chance next year."
GH: Are you pulling for him to beat your records, or do you kind of hope he comes close but just misses them?
Robinson: "You've got to have somebody beat your record, that's just the way things go. Better it's your brother than someone else."
GoHuskies.com correspondent Steve Hitchcock contributed to this report.