‘Blood over alma mater’: Robinson brothers set aside rivalry as Ohio State vies for national title

Buckeyes long-snapper Bradley Robinson has former Michigan long-snapper and brother Andrew firmly in…

‘Blood over alma mater’: Robinson brothers set aside rivalry as Ohio State vies for national title
'Blood over alma mater': Robinson brothers set aside rivalry as Ohio State vies for national title 1

Angelique S. Chengelis
| The Detroit News

Bradley Robinson has not been around his parents for the last six months, hasn’t hugged them or had any real interaction other than virtually. But as he and his Ohio State teammates celebrated their national semifinal game victory over Clemson on New Year’s Day, he took his hat and filled it with the scarlet and gray confetti that had fallen during the trophy celebration.

OSU coach Ryan Day has often told his players that one of the moments to cherish and savor is when the confetti falls.

Robinson looked at his hat full of confetti as a gift.

“And I ran up and handed it to my dad,” Robinson told The Detroit News. “That was the closest we got.”

In these COVID times, that was about as good as a postgame celebration could get for father and son. Bradley hopes he can make a similar gesture after Ohio State faces Alabama in the national championship Monday night.

More: ‘One of the best’: No. 1 Alabama looking for sixth title under Nick Saban

Robinson, Ohio State’s starting long snapper, grew up in Troy and attended Troy Athens. His older brother, Andrew, was a long snapper at Michigan, so this has made for some interesting family dynamics. It has been ingrained in Bradley to never say the M-word and he now only refers to Michigan as Buckeyes do as “that team up North.”

“It’s in my DNA. It’s instilled in me,” Robinson, 22, said, laughing. “That’s all I know that place as now.”

His family, including parents, Susanna and Brad, will attend Monday night’s game, and Andrew will be there with his girlfriend, Amy. Andrew, who attended the Big Ten championship victory over Northwestern last month and the win over Clemson, likes to joke that Ohio State has won every game he’s attended — including the ones in which he played.

More: Ohio State’s offense and QBs have taken off under Day

But blood is thicker than even alma maters and Andrew has been supporting his brother in every way, from critiquing practice videos sent daily — “he’s my No. 1 coach,” Bradley says — to even wearing an Ohio State jersey.

Well, it’s the dullest he could find, the gray alternate jersey OSU wore against Penn State in 2017.

“So there’s the minimal amount of red on it,” Andrew said, laughing as he pointed out that only the Block O at the collar is scarlet.

To save some face with his Michigan teammates, Andrew makes certain to represent the Wolverines.

“Of course, he’s got one of his team-issued team up North shirts underneath,” Bradley said. “That’s his thing, which I’m OK with. He said, ‘This way (the OSU jersey) doesn’t touch my skin, but I’m supporting and I’m wearing it.’”

Andrew takes the ribbing well from his UM buddies and points out that their teammate, former Michigan captain Joe Bolden, is now on the OSU staff as a quality control coach.

More: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith becomes first wide receiver to win Heisman in 29 years

“The thing is, they would do the same if their brother was in the same situation,” Andrew, 24, said. “Obviously, my brother has four Big Ten championship rings. I have zero. He has a Rose Bowl and a Cotton Bowl ring because Ohio State kind of throws them all together into one ring. And again, I don’t have any bowl rings.

“But it’s like, when it comes down to playing for a national championship, how can you not take blood over your alma mater?”

The brothers love representing Troy Athens and note the fact there hasn’t been a player who played high school in this city who has reached a national championship. Jake Duzey, a tight end from Athens, attended Iowa starting in 2011, and Kevin Muma, a kicker from Troy High, was at Michigan State starting in 2010.

“So Bradley, yeah, he’s a long snapper, but he’s the first kid from Troy to make it to that level,” Andrew said. “How do you not pull for that?”

Andrew paved the way as a long snapper as a way to play Division I football, and Bradley, 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, eventually followed that path. While his older brother attended Michigan, Bradley was destined to play for Michigan State, his father’s alma mater and the team he grew up attending games. He enrolled early. He rolled his ankle during summer workouts and before the season 2016, then-coach Mark Dantonio told Robinson he planned to use an offensive lineman as long snapper.

“And Dantonio basically said, ‘We don’t have a spot for you anymore,’” Brad Robinson said.

The Robinsons are all about academics and made sure Bradley finished the semester, as he considered transfer options. Michigan was his intended destination to join Andrew, but then Kerry Coombs, now OSU’s defensive coordinator but then the special teams coordinator, called.

“Me and my dad kind of looked at each other, like, ‘Ohio State? Come on,’” Bradley said. “You grow up north of the border, and you’re like, ‘No, Ohio State’s awful.’”

At Brad’s urging, presenting it as a bucket-list sort of thing, they took a visit during spring 2017 and met with then-head coach Urban Meyer.

“I ended up falling in love with it,” Bradley said.

After Bradley sat out the 2017 season per NCAA transfer rules, the brothers shared the field for Andrew’s final game at OSU in 2018. Andrew is now at Duke in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program but was home for several months during the early stages of the pandemic last year. 

The family relished the time together, and the brothers worked on snapping. Andrew is also a Rubio Long Snapping instructor, so his help was key. Starting last May, they spent a few days a week for several months working out with Lions kicker Matt Prater and punter Jack Fox. Andrew observed and coached his brother the entire time, helping him build toward earning the starting job at OSU.

Bradley intends to return to Ohio State in the fall for a final season and then hopes to pursue long snapping at the NFL level. His goal is medical school once football is done. But first things first, and that’s playing for a national championship and, he hopes, scooping some more confetti to present his father.

“It is very surreal with this opportunity to let alone make it to the playoffs and now have this opportunity to go and play for it all,” Bradley said. “This is the childhood dream that you play in the backyard with your brother. Back then when I was a kid I didn’t think I was gonna be the long snapper, maybe a quarterback or something, but hey, I found something that works well. Andrew found that, and I started it, and here I am, so it’s very surreal but I’m blessed with the opportunity.”

It has become a unique journey for the entire family, but especially for the Brothers Robinson, opposites sides of a college rivalry, but together for this ride as only brothers can be.

“Once he’s done playing, it’ll be the rivalry and everything, but right now, I guess indirectly I’m cheering for Ohio State, because I’m trying to cheer for my brother,” Andrew said. “I want him to get the opportunity to make it to the next level, so it comes with kind of the burden of cheering for Ohio State. I bleed maize and blue, but I’m not gonna regret cheering for my brother’s career.”


Twitter: @chengelis

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