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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 6

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 6 50 G elen Robinson gave off a strong vibe, one that screamed to anyone in the vicinity they should stay away. It didn't help that the 6-foot-1, then-250-plus-pounder was a tightly wound package of bulging muscle, as in- timidating a presence as there is, even for fellow football players, nor that his dad is Glenn Robinson, the former star at Purdue and the NBA, nor that he was a top pros- pect before he came to West Lafayette, one who was con- sidered by many a pivotal recruit for Purdue's new staff then. For all those reasons and more, Robinson had an air about him that was unsettling. "When Gelen got here, there was something about him that left everyone feeling he was standoffish," said quar- terback David Blough, a fellow member of the 2014 re- cruiting class. "It felt like he was hostile. We didn't know him very well. But it felt like if you said something wrong or you did something wrong, it'd be a fight, an argument. "… It felt like he was mad at the world. That's just the way it was." Was. It's been quite the journey from then to now for Rob- inson, one involving discovery and despair, travel and transformation, maturity and more. But it's not finished, either, with one more semester of school remaining until graduation — and few would have predicted that to hap- pen years ago — and a final football season. The defen- sive tackle could be on the verge of a huge season, turn- ing in the kind of production that's been within reach but not quite attained. But if he does get there, he'll do so with appreciation for how he arrived. "You learn a lot from your past," Robinson said. "It's made me who I am today. The mistakes I've made on the field and off the field have also made a great impact on me. There are some things I wouldn't change for the world because it's made me who I am today. It's really been a journey, a long one, and unfortunately this is my last season — it's coming to an end — but it's going to be something I'll be able to say was mine, and that's how I got to where I am today." Now Gelen Robinson is smiling, giving out high fives to the kids around him. He laughs and jokes. He encourages. And no one, not even the littlest of kids, is intimidated. They're in awe of him. He welcomes them into his space, open arms and full of love, and they welcome him right back. "They really like him," Lyn Treece Boys & Girls Club of Lafayette program director Christy Fader said. "They're not scared of him at all. They want to hug him and be around him as much as possible, more so even than any of his teammates." This is the Robinson of today, a gregarious personality who seems nothing like the years-ago character Blough described. In recent years, Robinson has taken a lead in Purdue's community outreach, particularly when it comes to any children's activities. In the spring, he and teammates visited local elementary schools, at least a half dozen of them, to read to rooms full of students. And on Fridays, he's led a group to visit the Boys & Girls Club, where they'd play dodgeball and other sports with the kids there, providing not only an athletic opportunity for them but in some cases mentorship as well. "For some of these kids it's just an amazing experi- ence, because they've never had it before, to interact with someone older than them who can show them, can show them anything in life in a positive outlook," Rob- inson said. "I've worked with kids who have had rough upbringings and being able to influence them to do the right thing and go to college (is great). "Sports are a great opportunity to express yourself and stay off the streets. You don't have to do drugs or any of that. But I like to bring as many teammates along as I can. Some of the older guys don't get how much you can influence a child's life. It's not a terrible thing if a teammate isn't going to an event — it's their own choice — but they should know that it affects kids' lives in a positive way. It's the least I can do to give back." Then And when a kid asks if he's ever made a big mistake, Gelen Robinson tells about the day he sat outside Pur- due's locker room and bawled. It was in June 2015, only hours after Robinson had been released after a night in the Tippecanoe County Jail following his arrest on suspicion of drunk driving. As difficult as it was, the timing made it even more

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