Via Laken Litman
FOX Sports College Football Writer
He’ll cut pictures out of game day shows – of any player, not just beginner players – then stick their heads in toothpicks or ice cream sticks. He arranges games, just like his grandfather did in real life.
Cleo Robinson visits Bijan’s idols every weekend for work, worked as a full-time Pac-12 employee for three decades, most recently as part of the league’s top instant replay team . He was the one who collected the programs to bring to his grandson. Now, Cleo, who retired in the spring at age 75, is the one leaving the field, watching her nephew’s childhood vision come true.
“I’ve met a lot of great athletes who run college football. Now it’s shocking to see, ‘Hey, that’s my nephew doing these things,'” Cleo said. “He’s someone I’ve admired all this time.”
Bijan Robinson has always been close to his grandfather Cleo, a Pac-12 official for three decades. (Picture: Terri Robinson)
While Cleo played a huge role in fueling Bijan’s love of the game, his impact went deeper – touching every part of Bijan’s life. Their relationship goes beyond the typical dynamic between grandpa and grandchild, closer to that of father and son. Bijan even calls him dad.
Bijan’s grandmother, Terri, said: “He loves football and loves his dad. “One of the things that tickles me watching him now is [when he was little] he always threw himself on the ground and said, ‘Catch me! Handle me! Handle me! ‘
“And now it’s the other way around. He hates being dealt with and does whatever he can to not be dealt with.”
Alabama will find out how tough it is to deal with Robinson in Saturday’s game between Texas and number 1 Alabama (noon ET on FOX and FOX Sports App), although the Crimson Tide already knew it would be a big undertaking.
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“He can do anything,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Robinson this week. “He’s got speed, he’s got power. He’s a very instinctive runner. He’s blocking and explosive. He’s got great hands, he’s a good receiver. They use it. use him in a game of passing.
“This guy is as good a defender as he is in the country.”
With expectations in Austin this season for the Longhorns to win the Big 12 after Robinson’s rising star, Bijan is leaning on what got him here in the first place: his family.
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Bijan’s grandparents have always been an important part of his life. When his mother, LeMore Saul, became pregnant in college, the family decided together that in order for her to keep her scholarship and graduate, she would move home with her parents in Tucson, Ariz, and raise Bijan in there. Cleo stepped in as his father.
It’s a welcome development for both. Cleo and Terri have two daughters, so there are more women in the family than men.
Cleo remembers coming home from work trips, shouting to the girls – who were chatting in the bedroom – that he was home, and then seeing Bijan’s head pop with a cry: “Oh my god, that’s it. it’s dad!”
“Look at [Bijan’s] the face is, “Get me out of here!” “Cleo said with a chuckle.” “This is a guy I can play with.”
(Grandfather) father and (grandfather) son quickly became attached. When Saul got married, young Bijan had the choice of moving into a new home with his mother, stepfather and children, or continuing to live with his grandparents. He decided to stay.
“Cleo is the only father he’s ever known and what boy wants to leave their father?” Terri said.
Football is an initial mounting point.
Bijan started playing chess when he was 5 or 6 years old, running in the wrong direction for the first two touches. He started showing moves he saw on TV or in Cleo’s games, and quickly fell in love with Reggie Bush – with whom he was wearing number 5 in Texas. (Cleo, of course, played the famous “Bush Push” game in 2005.)
Bijan and Terri attended many games Cleo was running, especially if they were nearby State of Arizona. A young Bijan will become so animated that it impresses season ticket holders in their part.
“It’s even got to the point of being like four men and they’re not going to keep Bijan on their shoulders to give him a better view of the game,” Terri said.
In addition to his growing passion for the game, there are also early signs of one of Bijan’s natural strengths: his vision. In Texas, he ran north-south, picked short courses and rarely lost. It’s a skill his grandmother noticed when he first started playing rugby at the age of 8 or 9.
Bijan Robinson soon displayed unusual vision, telling her grandmother Terri, “I knew where I was going before I got there.” (Picture: Terri Robinson)
“He said, ‘I knew where I was going before I got there,'” Terri recalled. “And he looked at me as if he could help him understand how he knew that and I had no clue. termites. I said, ‘You know what?’ And he said, ‘Yes, when they served me, I knew where I was going to end up before I got there.’
“I thought it was interesting, but let’s leave it at that. Then when I started hearing people talk about his vision, I was like, that’s what’s happening. It was the moment. I knew that this was a gift from God. He didn’t.” I didn’t get it either, but I think that’s the point where I realized there was something a little different about him. “
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While Terri goes to see all of Bijan’s games at Salpointe High, Cleo is forced to take most of them off because of work. But he always watches a replay afterwards so the two can hash out Bijan’s performance.
At Salpointe, Robinson became Arizona’s all-time top racer (7,036 yards) and top touchdown (114) for four years. He also became the first reverse runner in state history to run more than 2,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. He was named Player of the Year at Gatorade Arizona High School as a senior in 2019, and 247Sports ranked him the #1 backrunner and 15th player in the game. country. The heavily touted person ended up choosing Texas over powerhouse shows like Alabama, USC, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
Last year, as a sophomore at Texas, he dashed 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games, missing the last two after injuring his elbow in a loss to Kansas. And as the 2022 season gets underway, he’s a Heisman Trophy and Doak Walker Award nominee.
And as his reputation grows, so does Bijan’s Business.
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Matt Leinart struck up a conversation with Texas star Bijan Robinson to discuss his NIL dealings, as well as his love of Reggie Bush’s legendary USC.
From the very beginning, Robinson’s football career has been a family affair, from his mother and grandparents supporting him in high school games to shop talking to his grandfather. Now, his aunt, Cleyrissa, manages his business dealings, including all of his NIL contracts.
Bijan has at least 10 partnerships, including C4 Energy and Lamborghini Austin (though he only drives there on weekends and would rather get behind the wheel of his truck).
“I try not to show it,” he said. “It’s not me.”
A condiment company recently gave him a deal and named a mustard after him: “Bijan Mustardson: Bijan’s Official Dijon.”
“You see him on his work football field, you see him in commercials, you read about him. You’ll think, ‘Wow, what a great guy,'” his grandfather said. “Then you remember: He’s just Bijan.”
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Robinson hears Heisman exaggeration and sees it on social media, even though he tries to ignore it.
“When you start doing it, you start to believe it and then you work less,” he said. “So I don’t really go into it.”
But he feels more confident than ever, telling reporters at the Big 12 media day in July that he has grown from £213 last season to 222.
“Now I can either break that extra ball or make an extra move to get into the end zone,” he said. “I just have to have that on my body for this season so I’ll be ready for it.”
“Those teams didn’t back down,” Bijan said. “They went in there and punched them in the mouth and didn’t stop. They didn’t give up in Q3 or Q4. They turned it into a dog fighting the whole game.
“When you match that intensity and understand that you need to bring that fire back to them, then that’s when the games can go the way you want them to or you’ve done everything you can to get what you want.” And that’s what they did and what we need to do.”
Bijan Robinson went from 213 pounds last season to 222. “Now I can either break that extra tackle or make an extra move to go into the final zone,” he said. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
While the Alabama game brings the biggest anticipation this weekend, the most special part for the Robinson family is that Cleo won’t have to miss it because of work. In fact, this will be Cleo’s first time attending consecutive Bijan matches. Retirement has its perks.
“When I told Bijan [I was retiring]he was like, ‘Right! “” Cleo said. “We always talk after his games, but I’ll just talk in general terms because I haven’t seen that. Now we can talk about specifics.
“People tend to build him up and build him up, but good things don’t make you better. You need to know the bad.”
That’s exactly what Bijan Robinson expected from dad.
Read more about Texas-Alabama:
Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball, and soccer for FOX Sports. She has previously written for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” which was published in the spring of 2022 to mark Title IX’s 50th anniversary. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
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