Oct. 19, 2013
By Brian Rice
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tony Robinson weaved his way around the football field with many impressive performances for Tennessee in the 1980s, but on Saturday he returned to Neyland Stadium for the first time since 1985.
Robinson was a serious contender for the Heisman Trophy in that season, after a memorable four touchdown performance against top-ranked Auburn that earned him a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated a week later. But a hit to the knee three weeks later against Alabama ended his season, his Heisman hopes and his NFL dreams.
"Tony Robison was as great of an athlete as I ever coached in my life," legendary Tennessee head coach Johnny Majors said. "I told him, `You are the Tony Dorsett of quarterbacks, the Reggie White of quarterbacks.' He was as good as there has ever been, and I've never had a more talented player at one position."
He made just 16 starts as a Volunteer, throwing for 3,332 yards, a total that stands 14th in Tennessee history.
Robinson was perhaps the most notable Vol to be among the 250-plus former players to return Saturday as current Vol head coach Butch Jones welcomed the VFLs to Neyland Stadium. Lettermen from eight decades made the Vol Walk and ran through the T before the game.
He was persuaded to attend the VFL weekend after missing the 20th reunion celebration for the 1985 team during the 2005 season.
"It feels great to be back," Robinson said.
Jones has worked to foster relationships with Vol alumni since the day of his hiring at Tennessee. For Robinson, getting the call meant everything.
"It shows the love for the guys that played here in the past, I can't even explain the feeling," he said, with his voice cracking ever so slightly with the emotion of the moment prior to the Vol Walk. "To be welcomed back after all these years, I can't describe it. It's great to be back. It's your family, like a family reunion."
The return to campus was also a moving experience for his head coach.
"He's had a lot of adversity in his life, and I'm glad to see him doing well now," Majors said. "He called me out of the clear blue about six months ago, and I'm so glad to see him."