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Trevor Robinson keeps things loose

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, November 17, 2011

When the competition on the field finishes, Irish senior right guard Trevor Robinson needs something to fill the void. So what does he turn to?

His Nintendo-64, of course.

“The offensive line is pretty solid at Super Smash Brothers,” Robinson said. “We play quite a bit of that. We play some Mario Kart but no one can really hang with me.”

The business management major, who plays as Fox in the video game, has exceled on the football field as well, starting in each of his four seasons with the Irish.

The Elkhorn, Neb. native was one of the top recruits in the heralded 2008 recruiting class that included tight end Kyle Rudolph, receiver Michael Floyd and cornerback Robert Blanton. Robinson — the top-rated guard in the country by Rivals — was originally committed to Nebraska before switching to Notre Dame late in the recruiting process.

Robinson said there was a lot of outside pressure from home to attend Nebraska.

“That’s pretty much all there is in Nebraska,” Robinson said of the outside pressure. “When I decommitted, I got a lot of hate mail. For a lot of people, it’s kind of a sore subject back at home.”

Just a month after he committed to Notre Dame, Robinson enrolled early in the spring to get a jump on the offense.

“Spring ball is big,” Robinson said. “The first winter of conditioning and strength training was big and learning the offense. When the rest of the class got here for camp, I was already a leg up on the playbook.”

The extra practice helped Robinson become one of just five Irish players ever to start on the offensive line as a freshman, joining Sam Young and Ryan Harris as recent players to achieve the feat.

“It’s exciting especially at a school like Notre Dame that’s been playing for so long,” Robinson said. “Anytime you can get mentioned in something like that, it’s cool.”

When former head coach Charlie Weis was fired in 2009, Robinson said he — and the rest of the team — just had to roll with it.

“There are some growing pains and you see that in the first year,” Robinsons said. “It feels like you’re a freshman again learning everything over.”

Despite the change to Irish coach Brian Kelly’s up-tempo spread offense, Robinson still started all 13 games for the Irish in 2010.

“It’s quite a bit different,” Robinson said. “The structure and the calls are different but for offensive lineman, it just comes down to blocking people.”

Because of his early experience as a freshman, Robinson has had the opportunity to play with many different offensive line units. He says, however, this year’s group is the best one yet.

“The product we put on the field will probably say that we’re the best group that I’ve played with,” Robinson said. “Obviously, there have been players that come and go that have been good guys and still play in the NFL. I don’t think it was ever a lack of talent that led to lack of production. I think this is the most productive group, I don’t think that will be much of an argument.”

The Irish offensive line has paved the way for 23 rushing touchdowns this year while averaging nearly 180 yards per game on the ground. The unit went five entire games this season without a allowing a sack, a streak that Robinson attributes to a total team effort.

“It’s a team effort,” Robinson said. “It involves running backs and the quarterbacks making the checks and obviously us up front get a lot of credit for it but there’s a lot that goes into it as far as coaching and preparing during the week.”

While Robinson has found success as an offensive lineman, it was not always that way for the 6-foot-5, 311-pound senior.

“I started out playing skill positions and then I got too fat to keep doing that,” Robinson said with a laugh. “It was never a choice. Nobody ever chooses to play offensive guard.”

Robinson’s size helped him snatch a spot on the 2010 Outland Trophy preseason watch list. The Outland Trophy is annually awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

“I like to think physical like any offensive lineman,” Robinson said. “I like to be the guy that makes the calls and does the mental part too.”

Robinson’s strong 2010 campaign and leadership qualities led to a special privilege: being named a gameday captain for Notre Dame’s 2011 season opener against South Florida.

“It was exciting, the season opener, there’s a lot of buzz around campus and a lot of buzz around the pep rally,” Robinson said. “That’s the kickoff to the year so it’s definitely cool to do that.”

Since dropping the first two games of the season this year, Notre Dame has rebounded to rip off seven wins in eight games. Robinson believes this team still has more left to prove in their final two games against Boston College and Stanford.

“We’ve seen that we can compete with anybody,” Robinson said. “If we compete well, we can beat anybody we play.”

Robinson has started each game for the Irish this season, adding to his growing total of 45 career games played for Notre Dame. One game, however, sticks out to Robinson: his first career game, when the Irish topped Michigan in 2008.

“It was at home, against Michigan, second game of the year,” Robinson said. “[Former Irish guard] Chris Stewart was hurt and wasn’t going to play. It was raining and we ended up winning that game.”

Robinson had not played in the season-opening win against San Diego State and sat out the first half against the Wolverines. While Robinson recalls that moment as a great football memory, he remembers the trip to Hawaii for the Hawaii Bowl in 2008 as an excellent off-the-field moment.

“Looking back, it was with a lot guys I don’t see any more and it time I got to spend with them,” Robinson said. “We got to do some things outside of football so it was fun.”

The Hawaii Bowl also marked a landmark in Robinson’s appearance. Robinson shaved the long hair he had grown — inspired by former Ohio State and current Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk — since his freshman year of high school.

“It was pretty ugly, pretty long,” Robinson said of his hair at the time.

After his football career is over, Robinson — who now sports short hair and a full beard – said he would like to own his own business, possibly with his brother, who just opened up a gym.

Robinson described his Notre Dame experience as one about the people he met.

“It’s a lot of good people,” Robinson said of Notre Dame. “That was something I kind of took for granted when I was a freshman. I’ve come to appreciate all the things you get to experience and all the people you meet. One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t take advantage of all the resources and all the great people that are here.”

When he graduates, Robinson will leave a legacy of a four-year starter on the offensive line behind.

“[I want to be remembered as] somebody that led by example,” Robinson said. “Don’t really talk too much on the field or do anything like that but always being there trying to do the right thing.”