John Robinson Knows the Civil War
November 20, 2012, 5:00 pm
John Robinson has been a successful football coach for many years, but before he coached football he played for the Oregon Ducks on the 1958 team that went to the Rose Bowl. On Tuesday, Robinson joined BFT guest host Fletcher Johnson to reflect on both his playing and coaching career.
When asked about what he remembers most from his playing days, Robinson quickly recalled his coach, Len Casanova. The passing of Robinson’s father during his freshman year caused him to turn to Casanova as a father figure, and it was a role that Casanova seemed ready to accept.
“[He] treated me like a son,” said Robinson. “But I think he saw all his players as human beings and people he could help. All the guys that played there loved him.”
But even before he played college football Robinson knew that he wanted to eventually become a coach, and he shared that dream with a high school friend who would become a Hall-of-Famer in his own right.
“John Madden and I grew up together, and started talking about being coaches [in high school],” said Robinson. “We were going to be the greatest players that ever lived, but we found out early in life that wasn’t going to happen. So, we both segued it into the idea of becoming coaches.”
Robinson went so far as to follow around assistant coach John McKay in the offseason to garner as much advice about coaching as possible, and after a number of years as an assistant at Oregon Robinson was hired by McKay to be an assistant coach at USC. Eventually, Robinson would become the head coach for the Trojans for two separate stretches, as well as head coach for the Los Angeles Rams.
When the conversation progressed to discussing the differences between coaching college football and coaching professional football, one of the first things Robinson highlighted right away was the obvious difference in level of competition. He also discussed how much more even the teams were, and that you weren’t likely to experience the blowout margins of victory that a top-level college program might produce.
As the discussion turned back to college football, Robinson admitted that he was among those surprised by the meteoric rise of the Oregon Ducks program. He credited the start of the upward trend to Mike Bellotti, but noted that many people deserve credit for the team's success.