Man behind the headlines

Michelle Herrick

Michelle Herrick

A year ago, Anthony Robinson came to SDSU with a scholarship in football and a bright future as an electrical engineer.

Tuesday, Nov. 2, he was sentenced to two years in prison for distributing marijuana. Wednesday he withdrew from all of his classes and Thursday he moved out of his apartment. Friday at 9 a.m. he left for the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls.

At his sentencing Robinson told the judge he had squandered away his love of football by selling drugs.

But with 30 or so of his friends behind him, the gavel dropped on the next two years of Robinson’s life.

With tears in their eyes, his friends filed out of the courtroom. They shook his hand, patted him on the back, hugged him and touched his arm. Their glances echoed what words couldn’t.

“I just wanted to show that I’m there for him, and to show the judge that too,” said Trevor Hohn who played football with Robinson.

Robinson, 23, grew up in California with his mom and his seven brothers and sisters. Though he moved around a lot, he graduated from high school in Fontana, Calif. He was recruited to play football at SDSU last year.

Robinson’s friends say they had no idea he was selling drugs until they read about it in the news. Robinson said he certainly wasn’t doing it for the glory.

“I felt all alone and I wasn’t going to keep asking my family,” he said. “I was just trying to eat. I wasn’t trying to have a fabulous house, I was just trying to survive.”

Former basketball player Marquise Richardson was also sentenced on the same day as Robinson.

Though the two crimes were unrelated, the court system and the media conveniently lumped together the trials of Richardson and Robinson. Rozyher Aware, program advisor for multicultural programs, is worried that people might stereotype the two black athletes.

“We don’t have a large minority population,” Aware said. “They’re both athletes, both from out of state. But they made mistakes, they aren’t bad individuals. The media made an example of these two students.”

Cory Koenig, who met Robinson in football, agrees. He said Robinson’s treatment in the press has forced him to defend Robinson to people at school.

“I have to tell them that he’s not like that, not what you think,” Koenig said.

Last fall, an SDSU football recruiter approached Robinson and gave him only a few hours to decide if he wanted to come here. When Robinson accepted the scholarship the only thing he knew about South Dakota was that blue and yellow were the colors of the Jackrabbits and that it got cold here in the winter.

“My family didn’t want me to go,” he said. “I didn’t even know where South Dakota was. I knew it would be a culture shock.”

He quickly discovered South Dakota was much different than California.

“It was very slow,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of traffic. No Taco Bells. No malls. Not crowded. Not that diverse. It’s just a bunch of little cities.”

When Hohn met him, he remembers Robinson asking what the winters were like in South Dakota.

“It was funny how he was this California kid and he would ask questions like, ‘Can I wear a short-sleeved shirt here in the winter?’ ” said Hohn, a sophomore health promotion major from Mitchell.

But Robinson says he’s learned to like it here. Besides playing football, he was vice president of the Black Student Alliance and was part of a focus group of students to offer suggestions about the new student union.

Aware, advisor to the Black Student Alliance, said Robinson ran for vice president at the very first meeting he attended.

“That day he just went for it. You know – people have this image of football players, but when Anthony made a speech you could see he wanted to make a difference and he cared about the purpose of the organization,” she said.

Koenig, who helped Robinson move out of his apartment this past week, said it was really tough not knowing when he might see Robinson again.

“He’s the type of person that is not going to let someone feel sorry for him,” said Koenig, a sophomore pre-med major. “But you could see it every once in a while on his face that it would hit him and he would realize where he was going to go.”

Koenig, who is from Council Bluffs, Iowa, said he understands what Robinson was going through not having his family close by.

“I don’t know how I’d make out in college without the support from my family,” he said. “They live three hours away. I don’t know what it would be like to have them live half a country away.”

Ashleigh Walton, a 19-year-old sophomore broadcast journalism major from Sioux Falls, said Robinson was like a big brother to her and her roommates.

“There’s five of us girls that all live in the dorms together. He was like our guardian. He used to cook us dinner a lot last year. He loves to cook,” she said.

The judge told Robinson he could get out in a year on good behavior. Robinson expects to come back to SDSU and finish his degree, though he knows it’s not going to be easy.

“My main objective is I want to come back to school, but I won’t be able to get financial aid, so I’ll have to start working. I’ll have to save my money, so I might not be able to jump right back into it,” he said.

Aware says she along with his friends will be with Robinson every step of the way.

#1.885700:455046027.jpg:atmeetand greet.jpg:Anthony Robinson poses with Black Student Alliance member James Covington and BSA President Darquie Taybior at the Multicultural Meet and Greet Sept. 30.:#1.885699:1604886969.jpg:Anthony.jpg:Anthony Robinson: