Eugene Robinson played in the NFL for 16 years as a free safety. Although only the last one of those came with Carolina, in 2000, he embedded himself and his family in the city after his retirement.
Robinson, 52, has helped coach high school football, wrestling and track at Charlotte Christian since 2001. He is six months into a TV gig as a host on WCNC’s “Charlotte Today” midday show (11 a.m. to noon weekdays).
Most notably, Robinson has been the Panthers’ radio analyst since 2002, and he mixes relentless optimism about the team’s chances to win every game with an inside knowledge about Cover-2 defenses.
Five questions with Robinson:
Q. You have coached youth sports for more than a decade in Charlotte. Any unusual experiences?
A. I coached Steph Curry in track his junior year at Charlotte Christian. Steph was always small and he wanted to run track to help his ability to jump. He did the high jump for awhile. He was pretty good, too.
He’s got his ‘man’ body now. Back then he never dunked. I’m about 6 feet tall and he was about my height. He was still developing.
Q. What’s on the horizon for Cam Newton in 2015?
A. People tell me Cam is not that good and I say, ‘Dude, I don’t know what game y’all are watching!’ I’m telling you that this young man can flat-out play. He has every tool and he has the leadership. That dude plays hurt, too, and he doesn’t complain.
I saw that when the Panthers gave Cam the big contract, Mr. (Dave) Gettleman said Cam can get the Panthers to the promised land. And I believe that. I’m not being a homer or just Panther guy. I’m telling you, as a former NFL player, the dude can play! He’s calling plays at the line now in that modified hurry-up offense and moving us up and down the field.
He’s a quarterback. He’s all that they need, no doubt about it.
Q. In the annual “Where Are They Now?” Sports Illustrated summer issue, you and the magazine had fun recreating a football card you originally had shot in 1991 when with Seattle. How did that come about?
A. Sports Illustrated called me up because one of the football cards they were looking at redoing was my 1991 Pro Line card. I was playing for Seattle at the time, and I wore striped Zubaz pants for that football card and held my saxophone and was barefoot. SI told me it was rated as one of the more popular cards of the time and could I pose like that again?
I said sure and told them I still have the saxophone but the pants were long gone. They sent me another pair of the pants – it arrived the day of the photo shoot – and we shot it at my house in Charlotte about a month ago.
Q. What area concerned you in 2014 that you think must get better for Carolina this season?
A. The return game. Losing Ted Ginn last year hurt. Having him back, I think, is a difference-maker.
I remember Desmond Howard when I was at Green Bay [Robinson won a Super Bowl with the Packers]. He wasn’t the best receiver, but my goodness, there was no one better catching a punt or a kickoff. Some people just have a knack for it. And if you have a knack for it, that’s a commodity. Steve Smith had that knack. So does Ted Ginn. So I think getting Ted back helps us tremendously – that’s a big one.
Q. What will the Panthers’ record be in 2015?
A. Now this is my homer portion of it, because I’m a Panthers fan. People always tell me I say 12-4 to this question. I said 12-4 the year they went to the playoffs, and they went 12-4. I said 12-4 another year and they went 8-8.
But I believe this team is a 12-win team. Defensively, these guys are good. They keep points off the board. Having that component assures you of being much better than a .500 team. Now can the offense come through? I’m prejudiced, but I see 12 wins.