MIDWEST CITY — Xavier Robinson locked on his target, then started weaving through traffic.
He wasn’t trying to get a first down or score a touchdown.
He was trying to get to his mom.
“C’mon,” the talented running back said with a smile once he reached her.
This past week, Carl Albert High School held a celebration for athletes who will ink college letters of intent Wednesday. Since students will be on holiday break when Early Signing Day arrives, the school wanted to honor them, their families and their friends.
No one was any prouder of their support system than Robinson, who will sign Wednesday with OU.
It’s why he made sure his mom, his grandparents and his brothers were ready to join him when he was introduced. Why he relished taking photos surrounded by his Carl Albert teammates, then his coaches.
“It was so wholesome and amazing,” Robinson said while sitting in the quiet of the Carl Albert gym after his part of the celebration was finished. “The support system that goes on in this program is amazing. Being around these people, I’m just very grateful.”
For Robinson, Carl Albert became part of his village. It’s a village that helped raise him after his step-father’s death, that helped get him become one of the state’s best football players after his mom was left to raise five young children on her own.
His journey would’ve looked different without his village — and his path might never have led to OU.
Carl Albert High School running back Xavier Robinson’s strong, powerful running style helped land him a scholarship at OU. But that strength also comes from people who supported him along the way. (Nathan J. Fish/The Oklahoman/USA Today Network)
‘He’s doing the right thing’
Xavier Robinson was still in elementary school when his stepdad committed suicide.
His mom and stepdad had been married for a decade, raising their kids and doing the best they could. In an instant, Octavia James found herself a single mother of five children.
“One day, she was married. The next day, tragic,” James’ father, David Greasham, said. “Big-time tragic.
“And she’s held it together.”
Though Xavier was young and doesn’t talk much about that time now, he recognized his mother’s strength in the weeks and months that followed. It’s something he would make special mention of the day he committed to the Sooners. She worked extra hours. She struggled. She sacrificed.
And when James needed a hand, there were grandparents who offered to help. Aunts and uncles, too.
Kenneth Robinson is Xavier’s great-uncle, and he remembers the day Xavier was ready to quit football. He was playing little league, and he was at an age where the tackling had started to hurt.
“Uncle Kenneth, they hit me hard,” Robinson remembers young Xavier saying.
“Well, you’re gonna have to get tougher than them,” Robinson replied. “Why don’t you hit them before they hit you? If you have to, run over them. Don’t step aside. Run over them.”
That’s how the younger Robinson, now 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, has played ever since. Tough. Strong. Resilient.
He was following the advice of his great-uncle, but he was following the example of his mom, too. She wasn’t always perfect. Things weren’t always easy. But James always found a way for her family.
Sometimes, that meant moving to different parts of the Oklahoma City metro for a job or a specific school. Robinson, who was born in Midwest City, started school in the Mid-Del District, but he also attended school in Oklahoma City, Putnam City and Mustang.
He was at Mustang during football season his freshman year, then decided he wanted to go to Carl Albert. Robinson had played youth football with several of Carl Albert’s players. Plus, he knew about the Titans’ track record of success. Tons of state titles. Lots of college recruits. High expectations.
Carl Albert coach Mike Dunn said Robinson embraced those lofty standards immediately.
“He has a situation to where he could be a guy that can make excuses — he’s late all the time, or he doesn’t wake up on time, or he’s not where he’s supposed to be — because he’s got a lot of freedom,” Dunn said. “But I think he wants to please the coaches, and he wants us to know that he’s doing the right thing.”
That didn’t change Robinson’s junior year when his mom decided to move back to Mustang with a couple of his siblings. He asked Greasham, who Robinson calls Paw Paw, if he could move in and stay at Carl Albert.
Greasham, who played basketball at OU in the late 1970s, drives a bus in Oklahoma City and works a lot of late-night hours. One night, he got home late and saw light coming under Robinson’s bedroom door.
“What are you doing?” Greasham asked.
“Oh, I’m studying film, Paw Paw,” Robinson replied.
Greasham smiled, nodded and left Robinson to it.
Robinson ended up living with Greasham for a year, and even though Robinson went to Mustang regularly to see his mom and siblings, she admits that time was difficult.
“We lose that mother-son relationship,” James said. “I try to call him every day or when I make a really good meal — ‘I made this,’ and he’s like, ‘I’m coming to get it.’”
Her alfredo and Italian sandwiches are favorites.
“It was hard asking my dad, but I’m glad I did,” she said. “Because I don’t think (Xavier) would be here today.”
Here, getting a scholarship to OU.
Here, about to become a Sooner.
‘I came a long way’
Xavier Robinson isn’t chatty. Doesn’t show much emotion either.
Mellow might be a good way to describe him.
Even on the football field, he isn’t a hype man. If he was, he’d have plenty to celebrate; he rushed for 2,594 yards and 39 touchdowns as a junior, then 1,789 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior. Both seasons ended in state titles for Carl Albert.
But ask Robinson about going to OU, and his excitement is obvious.
“I’ll get set up in my dorm on the 20th,” he said. “I don’t (have) many details, but I’m pretty sure we may have orientation after that. … I know I’ll be limited in practice, get ready to go out there and go watch the bowl game and stuff like that, prep with the team.”
The same day Robinson makes his commitment to the Sooners official — Early Signing Day, Dec. 20 — he’ll move to Norman. He’ll start practicing, wearing the gear, being a Sooner.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s really unbelievable to me. I came a long way, and it really does feel official that this is the next step for me.”
And he knows his village will be there when he needs them.
But now, Robinson has started thinking about how he can be there for his village.
“I just can’t wait to come back after a couple of months,” he said, sitting inside the Carl Albert fieldhouse. “See how the program’s doing. Maybe come back and give a speech.
“I want to be one of those kind of people.”