Returning the favor at Calvert Hall

Football: The school guided Jay Robinson as a youth

now he devotes himself to today's players.

High Schools

October 16, 2002|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Jay Robinson, The day his mother died four years ago, during his first season as Calvert Hall's coach, Jay Robinson reported to football practice. The next day, Robinson debuted with his first victory.

"It was tough, but I did my job," Robinson said. "And that's what I'm supposed to do is my job."

The coach is still doing his job, having led this year's No. 3 Cardinals to a 6-0 record.

A 56-22 victory two weeks ago over Mount St. Joseph has Calvert Hall poised for Saturday's game against Gilman, the four-time Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference defending champion, at Calvert Hall's Paul Angelo Russo Stadium.

The Greyhounds (7-0), who edged Mount St. Joseph, 48-45, this season, are ranked No. 1 in The Sun and No. 16 nationally by USA Today.

Calvert Hall players "get the feeling Coach Robinson had to work hard for what he's gotten and worked through difficult situations in life," said running back Marques Thompson. "You want to play hard for him."

Fatherless at age 10, Robinson said he acquired his tireless work ethic and nurturing skills from a mother who "always worked" to support him. It is with similar drive and care that Robinson has compiled a 25-11 record.

"When the opportunity came for me to work here, I jumped on it, because I felt deep in my heart it was time to give back. What better place to be than a place that gave me so much?" said Robinson, a 1974 Calvert Hall graduate. "When my mother died, people here were loving and supportive. I knew I was back in the family atmosphere that helped me so much."

At 6 feet 4, 240 pounds - 20 pounds heavier than his playing weight - Robinson can be an intimidating presence. But Robinson doesn't scream at his players as much as teach them.

"Our kids need structure, discipline and love on occasion, and I try to provide that," he said.

"Coach Robinson gets his point across, but he's subtle and caring in how he does it," said senior defensive back Nick Williams.

"Coach Robinson makes you feel like he's one of us," said defensive lineman Devon Douglass, a senior captain and third-year starter. "I know a little bit about his past, but not much, because he's very unselfish in the way that he doesn't let us become affected by things that are going on with him."

Robinson, 46, still is putting aside personal issues for his team's sake.

He says a heart condition called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is "a nonissue." Twice during games, Robinson has left the sideline with an accelerated pulse. It first happened in Calvert Hall's third game last season against Westminster and most recently in the Cardinals' season-opening rout of St. John's.

In the incident this season, Robinson was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital after experiencing dizziness and shortness of breath. He was monitored via electrocardiogram for an hour until his heart rate normalized. He has been advised to avoid caffeinated coffee, which doctors say might have aggravated his condition in each instance.

"My EKGs have all been perfect, and all the bloodwork has come back negative," Robinson said. "I've seen a couple of different cardiologists, and they've all said no other precautions need to be taken."

Right now, Robinson's heart is into his alma mater, which he credits for providing him with guidance as a teenager "starving for a male role model."

Robinson grew up in Loch Raven Village and played tackle football, often without equipment, in the alleys.

After his father died of a heart attack, "Mom was always working and my two sisters were off at college. I lived like an only child," Robinson said. "I was an average student. Wasn't an angel. I needed a good male to challenge me."

That challenge came from his high school football coach, Joe Carlozo, a man who stressed fundamentals and hard work.

"We played with emotion and just out-toughed teams," Robinson said. "We won a league title my junior year, but weren't the most talented guys."

Robinson said he learned some of his "life skills" from Phil Albert, his coach at Towson State. As a player, Robinson was "tough, disciplined, and a student of the game," said Albert, who now coaches Robinson's offense. Former Calvert Hall coach Augie Miceli runs the defense.

Robinson was an assistant to Albert until 1991, and then to his replacement, Gordy Combs, until '97 - a span of 19 years. One of Robinson's former players there, Tony Campitelli, coaches Calvert Hall's offensive line.

Said Campitelli of Robinson: "He's a role model for what I wanted to be, and I model myself after him."

At a recent practice, Robinson scolded a receiver who failed to execute the correct pass route, but later put his arm around the boy, who nodded in agreement as his taller coach calmly reinforced his point.

"I think players respond to me because they trust me," Robinson said.

"With Coach Robinson, it's always one play at a time, one game at a time," Douglass said. "You feel like if you follow his directions, do what he asks you to do, you'll win football games."

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