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From Durham to Dover

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Few athletes have impressed me more than Cody Robinson - and he did it the moment I began reporting in McMinnville. Blessed with the size and strength few others can match, Cody stood out immediately. It wasn't because he was head and shoulders above other athletes - although he literally was - it was because he worked harder on his craft than anybody I had met before in the game.

It's no shock he has found great success in life - here's his story. - Jeffery Simmons

Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics

On Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, as we faced off against our long-time rival the University of North Carolina, I put on my helmet for what turned out to be the last time. Late in the game, I reinjured my back - an injury I battled for two seasons. The injury ultimately forced me to give up playing the game of football. While I was done playing, I was hopeful football would remain in my future.

After I completed school, I was offered a position on the Duke coaching staff as an Offensive Operations Assistant, a position historically reserved for young coaches. In recent years, this position has commonly been referred to as an analyst and is offered to established coaches who find themselves out of the job (looking at you Butch Jones and Alabama). This practice has hindered young coaches tremendously and unfortunately changed the coaching profession, but that is a story for another day.

I spent two years on the coaching staff at Duke working with running backs/special teams and the offensive line during my respective years. As an Operations Assistant, you have many responsibilities ranging from: film analysis, game planning, practice planning, scout team coaching, recruiting, coffee making and lunch runs, among several other less exciting tasks. Coaching was a great experience - I sat in the same room and learned from one of the greatest QB coaches in the modern era, David Cutcliffe, and I gained a deeper appreciation for coaches.

The positive experience still didn’t satisfy my desire to be on the field playing though.

On Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017, as I was running from the press box to the field after we beat NIU in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl, I couldn’t help but miss playing the game. Winning any game at the college level is special but bowl games keep coaches’ jobs safe, result in bigger bowl bonuses and make for a much happier offseason. In that moment everyone was celebrating but I couldn’t shake the feeling of missing playing the game of football.

As I walked off the field after the game, I knew there was a possibility that was my last time on a football field as a coach. Ironically, a few weeks after the game, I received an unsolicited call from a friend in the NASCAR industry who mentioned a job opening with the Motorsports Agency of Record for Lowe’s, the then sponsor of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson. After contemplating the job for a while and a lengthy interview process, I received an offer and accepted the position. This was a big change in my life as this was the first time in 17 years that my fall wouldn’t revolve around 8-13 game days.

After two and a half years, I am still happy with my decision to move to Charlotte. I have had the opportunity to work with multiple NASCAR Cup Series sponsors, teams, and drivers and continue to find my work rewarding. Instead of being in a football stadium on Saturday afternoons, my weekends are now spent at racetracks all around the country. Surprisingly, I find a lot of similarities between my current work and my time in football and I constantly draw on lessons and experiences learned from my playing days. Even with the career change I still haven’t gotten away from the game of football completely - I now get my football fix assisting the South Park Pee Wee Football team. I find it rewarding to teach kids how to love and most importantly respect the game that has given so much to me.

Cody Robinson is a former Pioneer who was named all-state in 2010. Robinson will be contributing to the Warren County Sports Authority website as a college football analyst.

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