Robiskie shined at all levels of football
I’m not in touch that much. But I was loved and respected by coaches and my teammates and I always enjoyed my time there. I’m always proud to say I went to LSU.” TERRY ROBISKIE
Editor’s note: This is the final in an eight-story series on the 2012 inductees to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies will be held Saturday in Natchitoches.
Forty years ago — before Rivals and Scout — and before just anybody thought about the mass dissemination of football recruiting information, word somehow spread about a football phenom from a little all-black school in the middle of cane fields along the Mississippi River in St. John Parish.
At Second Ward High School in Edgard, Terry Robiskie was a man among boys, a 6-foot-2, 210 pounder who once went 97, 84 and 80 yards for touchdowns on quarterback sneaks in a single game, who averaged 10.2 yards per carry and who led his school to Class 1A championships in 1971 and 1972 and a 48-2 record during his career.
The high acclaim Robiskie garnered naturally drew the attention of the nation’s top powers. Notre Dame, Southern California, Nebraska, UCLA and Oklahoma, especially Oklahoma, pursued Robiskie.
Grambling, where several family members had attended, and Tulane also were in the picture.
In the end, he chose nearby LSU, which only two years before had signed its first black players. Even Gov. Edwin Edwards, who never claimed to be a football fan, got involved.
And at LSU he didn’t disappoint. Converted to running back, he was the Southeastern Conference’s Most Valuable Player as a senior in 1976, the first Tiger to gain more than 1,000 yards in a season and left as the school’s career rushing leader.
After a five-year, injury-shortened career in the NFL, Robiskie turned to coaching on the advice of Pro Football Hall of Famer Al Davis, the man who drafted him for the Oakland Raiders.
That began an uninterrupted stint in the league that endures more than three decades later. Robiskie is currently the wide receivers coach of the Atlanta Falcons.
But it’s for those accomplishments from long ago that he is being inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches on Saturday.
“I don’t think I started out thinking about being the No. 1 player in the country or signing a scholarship — and I didn’t even know what the NFL was,” Robiskie said. “To me, it was all about competition — beating your cousins in the backyard or the team from the next town.
“But it’s nice to be remembered for what you did by the folks in your home state.”
And staying in his home state, Robiskie said, was the primary reason he signed with LSU.
“I wanted to pick a school in Louisiana where I felt the most comfortable,” Robiskie said. “Coach Dinvaut believed very strongly in education and told me if football didn’t work out, I needed to think very strongly about where I wanted to make a living in the long run.
“Charlie Hall was my host at Tulane, I could have been comfortable there and the main reason I didn’t go to Grambling was because Doug Williams had signed with them. But the people at LSU let me know how important it was it was to sign there.”
Duhe, who was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and Robiskie were roommates in Broussard Hall — an interracial pairing highly unusual at the time.
But with Lora Hinton and Mike Williams, who were LSU’s first black signees in 1971, sharing one room; Richard Romain and Thielen Smith, who had arrived in 1972 in another; and Carl Otis Trimble and Robert Dow deciding to become roomies, that left Robiskie wide open.
“I think Coach Mac was trying to trying to break down some barriers still on the team then,” Duhe said. “But rooming with Terry was OK with me.”
On the field, Robiskie was “relentless,” according to Romain, who added, “He never got tired and played at full speed all the time.”
As a freshman, with Robiskie sharing time in the backfield with Brad Davis and Steve Rogers, LSU won its first nine games before losing to Alabama and Tulane and then Penn State in the Orange Bowl.
In Robiskie’s final three seasons, the Tigers were 15-16-2, a result, Robiskie said, “of just never jelling. After Mike Miley left (to play baseball) we were never really settled at quarterback, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time in the NFL, it’s virtually impossible to win if you don’t know who your quarterback is.”
The seeds for Robiskie’s coaching career were sewn by Davis on the day he cut him after three seasons.
“He told me, ‘One day, you’ll be a hell of a coach in the NFL,’” Robiskie said. “It had never occurred to me until then. But it could be raining cats and dogs and Al Davis could convince you the sun was shining.”
After two years with Miami and a broken wrist that ended his playing days, Robiskie was hired by Davis as the Raiders’ tight ends coach. He remained with the Raiders for 12 seasons, followed by seven with Washington, six with Cleveland, one with Miami and the past five with Atlanta.
Twice Robiskie has been an interim head coach — in 2000 with the Redskins and 2004 with the Browns. But he’s never gotten the opportunity to be a real one, something, Robiskie said, “leaves a hole in his heart,” although he has come to a level of acceptance that it was not meant to be, not to mention the pride of drawing a steady paycheck from the NFL for three-plus decades.
Another regret for Robiskie is being passed over for the LSU job in 1995.
If he had been hired, Robiskie would have been the first black coach in the SEC, nine years before Mississippi State tabbed Sylvester Croom.
That has caused distance between Robiskie and his alma mater, but not a total divorce nor a diminishing of feelings about his time at LSU.
“I’ll always pull for LSU,” he said. “But things change, and I’m not in touch that much. But I was loved and respected by coaches and my teammates and I always enjoyed my time there. I’m always proud to say I went to LSU.”