Imagine my surprise and delight when I learned via email and Facebook last week that Richard Robinson, one of the most dynamic, respected, and successful individuals to serve as a high school football coach and athletic director, was recently inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA) Hall of Fame Class of 2021.
The recognition and induction are long overdue for the man who shaped countless lives leading young men on the gridiron for Minneapolis Central and Minneapolis North, where he went on to serve as athletic director as well.
By the time my family relocated to Saint Paul when I was entering seventh grade in 1977, Robinson was already established as one of the state’s top high school football coaches at Central, a job he began in 1972.
He went on to coach such players as Charlie Walker, Rickie Davis, Wayne Whitmore, Calvin Anderson, James Holmes Jr., Russell Gary, Rodney Lewis, Jeff Byrd, Willie Roller, Charles Rucker, Tim Robinson, David Thompson, and Peter Najarian to name a few. Robinson led them to the 1980 Minneapolis City Conference championship.
When Central closed in 1982, Robinson moved on to Minneapolis North, coaching the likes of Mark Eubanks, Jerry Upton, Jeff Robinson, Jeff Williams, Ron Buck, Lawrence Coleman Mike Favor, Julius Jackson, Brett Buckner, La Mar Elliot, Jonas Dixon, Brian Scheppard, and Jonathan Smith among numerous others.
By the time the Polars made a run at the City Conference championship during the 1989 season, I was a young prep sports columnist for Insight News. They finished in second place after losing to Edison in the title game.
Robinson retired from coaching football after the 1990 season and remained North’s athletic director until 1998. He was a powerful figure who impacted the lives of countless players, students and coaching colleagues.
He had an impact on my life. Whenever I would cover a game at North, Robinson’s greeting was always the same: “Hey, you came across the river,” he always said smiling. “There must be something important going on over here.”
The last time I ran into Mr. Robinson was at a Minnesota Timberwolves game a couple of years ago. “I see you are keeping up with the [North] Polars,” he said smiling.
In Richard Robinson’s debut as coach at Central in the fall of 1972, he led the Pioneers to a 19-8 victory. The team they beat? The North Polars.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.