From the sports editor: Robinson still knows how to lead

Dave Robinson speaking to family, friends, former coaches and DIAA Board members after he received his award. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — Dave Robinson had been Bill Collick’s sixth-grade football coach.

So when Robinson asked Collick to come meet with him in 2010, the former Delaware State coach knew he needed to be there.

At the time, Robinson was the interim superintendent at Cape Henlopen and Collick was retired from coaching. Robinson wanted Collick to come back and coach his alma mater.

“He was the same old guy,” Collick says with a laugh as he picks up the story. “He says, ‘Coach, the school really needs something, it really does.’ And then he said, ‘Coach, we’ve got to win more than two games.’

“So he let me know right away, there are expectations. He said, ‘I’m serious, Coach, we’ve got to stop this stuff of winning two games.’ It kind of set the tone right there.”

Robinson laughs when he hears Collick’s version of the story.

“Yeah, I probably told him that — and in those terms, too,” he said. “I’m sure I did.”

As Robinson says this, he’s sitting in a wheelchair, the result of being mostly paralyzed in a bike accident two years ago. The 74-year-old’s thin body has been through a lot lately.

Robinson is also in the midst of a nine-year battle with blood cancer.

But his mind is sharp. And he clearly still has the respect and affection of the coaches who worked for him in the 36 years he spent in the Caesar Rodney School District.

Cape Henlopen — where Robinson both started and ended his scholastic career — was also well-represented in the small throng of people who came out for a ceremony in Dover on Thursday. They were there to see their old boss presented with the DIAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

The fact that there were three Delaware Sports Hall of Fame coaches on hand — Collick, Joe Purzycki and John Coveleski — spoke volumes.

Out of all the things Robinson accomplished in his life, maybe nothing earned him as much respect as overcoming being paralyzed at the age of 73. Being left unable to move was especially crushing for an avid cyclist who had ridden over 90,000 miles in his life.

“I thought that’s one tough-minded man,” said Coveleski. “He just has a certain resolve in him that is beyond anybody I’ve known.
“I still remember when he said (after the accident), ‘I can move two fingers.’ That’s where it started.”

Despite the harsh reality of his circumstances, Robinson promised Coveleski he’d be walking about six months later when the former CR football and lacrosse coach went into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.

Robinson wasn’t quite able to fulfill the promise because of a medical setback just before the ceremony. But Robinson has walked since the accident and recovered in ways that seemed almost impossible to his family and friends in the days after the accident.

“Out of the Hall of Fame and all the things that go with that, somebody saying that to you probably was the thing I’ll always remember,” said Coveleski.

Collick visited Robinson in the Philadelphia hospital, too. He said even when he was lying, paralyzed in a bed, Robinson took charge of the situation.

“I said to my wife, ‘Well, he’s getting better because he’s taking the lead,’” said Collick. “He was telling them what worked for him. I tell people, when he talks, people listen.”

It’s been 57 years since Robinson played in the Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game as a 215-pound defensive tackle for Lewes High.
He’s still got the No. 60 jersey. His nine-year-old grandson Liam just tried it on the other day.

Robinson’s wife, Linda, said Dave was excited to be back among old friends at the DIAA ceremony on Thursday morning.

“I think he woke up at maybe 5:15 this morning,” she said. “It’s very touching for him. It means a lot to him, it really does.
“Athletics have been such an important part of his life and what he believed it did for the students.”

Of the four winners of the DIAA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Robinson is the first who was known primarily as an administrator. He’s proud of that fact.

Robinson, though, also never strayed very far from the playing fields and courts.

“I’d rather go to a high school game and enjoy standing on the fence with the fans and being one of them,” he said.

“The one thing as a school administrator is that I never looked back or held grudges,” Robinson added. “I just kept trying to do the right thing. My credo that I lived by is doing the right thing. Over time, if you try to do it that way, things will work out.”

Harris leaving Dover

After four years, Aaron Harris is apparently leaving Dover High.

Harris has served as both the Senators’ athletic director and wrestling coach since 2014.

The Capital School District began advertising the AD position on Wednesday and is accepting applications through June 22. It expects the new athletic director to start on July 1.

But Harris probably made his biggest impact as wrestling coach. He made the Senators a competitive program again, taking Dover to back-to-back appearances in the DIAA Division I dual-meet state tournament.

Two years ago, Harris was a finalist for the wrestling job at Caesar Rodney, his alma mater. It’s a pretty safe assumption that Harris will surface at another program soon.

Extra points

• Blue-Gold Football All-Star Game week gets underway today with Media Day at Delaware Stadium, starting at about 2 p.m. The Gold team is slated to practice at Milford High on Wednesday at 5 p.m. with the game set for Saturday evening in Newark.

• Little League’s special games baseball and softball tournaments — the ones mostly for players 12 and under — get started next weekend in Kent County’s District I.

• Athlon Sports is predicting that Delaware will make the NCAA Division I FCS football players for the first time since 2010.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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