Sean Cronin will always remember Adrian Robinson’s smile.
Cronin, who was Temple’s defensive line coach in 2011, shared his last moment with the Owls’ late defensive lineman in 2012.
During a meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cronin ran into Robinson — who signed a rookie free agent contract with the team after not being selected in the 2012 NFL Draft – and the two embraced each other with a hug and a smile.
“I just remember him being a tremendous and happy guy from an unbelievable family,” Cronin said. “He was a tremendous player and a tremendous kid … you couldn’t say anything bad about him.”
Robinson, who died on May 16 from suicide by hanging at the age of 25, appeared in all 50 games during his college career, starting in 38 games — including a team-best 32 consecutive games from 2009-2011.
During his time as an Owl, Robinson —whose brother, Averee, is a junior defensive lineman at Temple— totaled 156 career tackles, 221/2 career sacks and 331/5 tackles for loss.
While under Cronin and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater in 2011, Robinson was fourth on the team in tackles with 52, including a team-best 131/2 tackles for loss. The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native was also a first-team All-Mid-American Conference honoree.
“He was a hard-working guy,” Cronin said. “He never got in trouble. He always had a smile on his face when he went to work every day. He is what you want in a football player.”
In Heater’s defense, Robinson played the “fox” position — which put an emphasis on rushing the passer. Cronin said Robinson’s ability to create plays made him a natural fit for the position.
“I knew he was going to be special at the position we played him at,” Cronin said. “I was excited once I saw he was a natural pass rusher that in our defense, it was kind of built around his position … you had to have a guy in our defense that could go out there and make plays.”
Cronin said Robinson’s ability to rush the passer was something that came natural to the defensive lineman.
“He worked really hard at [rushing the passer],” Cronin said. “But some guys will work really hard about it and they can only improve to a certain degree. It is like dancing — if you know how to dance, you can work hard at it and be a great dancer.”
Steve Addazio, who was Robinson’s coach in 2011, also remembers Robinson’s playmaking ability, which Addazio said was on display in a 14-10 home loss to Pennsylvania State University in 2011.
Robinson, who totaled 4 tackles and a blocked-extra point, and the Owls held Penn State to a season-low 92 yards rushing and 308 total yards, which was 33 yards less than their average offense per game total of 341 yards.
“He was so confident that game, “Addazio said. “He was applying so well. I remember him telling me we got this one coach. I had a lot of faith in him as a player.”
Addazio also remembers Robinson’s reception of the new coaching staff in 2011.
When Al Golden went on to become the coach at the University of Miami after the 2010 season, Addazio was selected as the next Temple coach. Addazio brought in seven new coaches, only keeping two coaches from Golden’s staff.
“He really accepted our staff when we rolled in there,” Addazio said. “He was a great leader for our team and I really enjoyed him.”
As a sophomore in 2009, Robinson was named MAC defensive player of the year after recording 46 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 12 sacks. While under Golden from 2008-2010, Robinson and the defense allowed an average of 265 yards per game, while totaling 22 wins.
“To be a defensive lineman at that young age and have that kind of success is tremendous, very unique … but when we took the job and started watching video and you watch that kid come off the football, it didn’t take long to realize he was special,” Cronin said.
After a stint with the Steelers in 2012, Robinson played for the Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins.
“When you work with guys and develop a relationship with those guys and you always want them to be successful,” Cronin said. “So it was neat to watch him have some success in the NFL and I was really happy for him. I feel good when [former players] do that.”
Robinson, who signed a contract with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on the Canadian Football League on April 27, 2015, was a graduate of Harrisburg High School and was one of five Owls to appear in the 2008 Big 33 game, an all-star football game that featured the top high-school football players from Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“He always represented Temple [University] very well,” Cronin said. “He was a great ambassador for Temple University.”
Michael Guise can be reached at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise
Owen McCue contributed reporting