Reusse: Robinson's enthusiasm, speed shined

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 9, 2012 - 10:58 PM

The former St. Paul Central and NDSU star affected NFL games with his athletic skills and all kinds of people with his winning personality.

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In this Jan. 25, 1987 photo, Giants wide receiver Stacy Robinson caught a pass and raced for a 36-yard gain in Super Bowl XXI. Robinson died Tuesday at age 50.

Photo: NFL, Associated Press file 1987

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Stacy Robinson was a standout receiver for North Dakota State. He shared a house with Dave Beeksma, Todd Murdock and Rud Wasson during the 1984-85 academic year. Finances were tight and the foursome had not signed on for that new-fangled cable television.

The NFL draft was getting close in April 1985 and it became clear: If this house was going to be headquarters for monitoring Robinson's fate, a cable hookup was required.

Cable was installed on a Saturday. Three days later, on April 30, Robinson was in the living room at 7 a.m. for the start of ESPN's draft coverage.

At 10 a.m., Kermit Klefsaas, a tight end for NDSU, barged into the house and hollered: "Did you get a job yet, Stacy?"

The first round ended at 10:36 a.m. The three receivers rated ahead of Robinson -- Eddie Brown, Al Toon and Jerry Rice -- had been taken, along with Jessie Hester to Oakland.

"My No. 1 choice," Robinson said, when Hester went to the Raiders.

The second round moved past the midway point when agent Tony Agnone called Robinson to say the New York Giants were interested with the 46th overall selection.

A moment later, ESPN's young draft expert, Mel Kiper Jr., predicted the Giants would take a defensive back. Robinson rocked back in his chair, looking glum, and then the phone rang.

"Yes, this is him," Robinson said. "Yes, I'll hold a minute."

Robinson covered the mouthpiece, winked toward a crowd that now numbered 10 in the living room and said: "It's all set with the Giants."

It was only 27 years later that a different and very sad message spread among Stacy's friends and former NDSU teammates: Robinson, 50, had died Tuesday night from complications of multiple myeloma.

Klefsaas is now an English teacher and coach in the Staples-Motley school district.

"Stacy left Fargo and had a career in the NFL, and we were proud of him for that," Klefsaas said Wednesday. "I hadn't seen him in a long time. And then I got the e-mail, an e-mail from Beeksma -- telling me Stacy had died and there were many great things being said about him on CaringBridge.

"It's a shock. You remember his enthusiasm, as an athlete and as a person."

After being a football, basketball and track star at St. Paul Central, Robinson caught 88 passes for 1,626 yards and 13 touchdowns in 31 games for NDSU. That's not off the charts, until you remember that it was a time when the Bison were running Don Morton's veer offense and passes were a rarity.

"We didn't throw it much, but when the scouts saw him run ... he was so fast," Klefsaas said. "Stacy's speed gave him an NFL career."

Robinson was with the Giants from 1985 through 1990. He led Giants wide receivers with 29 catches for 494 yards in 1986. He had three catches for 62 yards -- including a 36-yarder to set up the Giants' fourth touchdown -- in the 39-20 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXI.

"I feel magnificent," Robinson said after that victory. "I'm elated. It is a greater feeling than I imagined it would be."

The Giants won another Super Bowl after the 1990 season. By then, Robinson had been cut out of Bill Parcells' offense. He collected his second Super Bowl ring and winner's share and retired from football. He also had a Division II championship ring from the 1983 NDSU Bison.

In January 1993, Robinson was working as the director of minority services for Southwest State. A total of 130 minority students were enrolled at the time.

"My job is to make sure they realize that this is their university, too," Robinson said.

Later, he worked for the NFL Players Association, trying to prepare players for life after football. And then Stacy was thrown the ultimate curveball: cancer. He died in hospice care in the presence of his family.

Phil Simms, the quarterback who completed those three passes to Robinson in Super Bowl XXI in January of 1987, offered this as part of a statement:

"He might be one of the few people I've ever met or known that everybody truly liked."

For sure, it was that way on draft day 1985, in the old house near the NDSU campus. There was a loud cheer and handshakes all around when Stacy gave his wink and said softly, "It's all set with the Giants."

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

  • STACY ROBINSON 1962-2012

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