CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Time after time, we see athletes on the big stage make those game-changing plays and for some, it impacts the path of their entire career. But rarely do we see what it took to get to that point.
The road that brought Kenny Robinson to the Carolina Panthers is all his own. After two seasons at West Virginia, Robinson chose the path to go pro, first through XFL.
Even though his love for the game played a major role, it was nothing compared to his love for his mother.
“To see her now, she’s like a whole different person, you know?” Robinson said. “It was basically just thinking of my family. My mom, she couldn’t work, so what income would we have. I took it upon myself to put that weight on my shoulders and take care of my family.”
It goes back to 2018. Robinson, then a sophomore in college, got the call.
“So, her first stroke, my family called and told me she had a stroke and that she was going to be OK. It really wasn’t anything too big. They didn’t think anything of it,” he said.
One week later, it happened again.
“I happened to come home that week. Really that day, I was coming home from school to surprise her and I ended up coming home, we found her having a seizure, like a mini seizure/stroke,” Robinson said. “I had never seen my mother like that. That was probably the first time I saw my mother like, she couldn’t talk ... even on her way to the ambulance, as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t even say that she loved us. She was trying to get it out.”
Robinson and his family would soon learn his mother had colon cancer, along with repeated strokes. It’s a combination that has taken its toll in her body, while also transforming the woman and mother he’s always known.
“She’s had over four strokes since the cancer. She’s had numerous seizures.. So, my mother she’s like, she can’t really like ... her speech and everything, it’s not there anymore,” Robinson said. “It’s kind of hard seeing my mom because a lot of emotions come out ... but you’ve got to stay strong for her, you know what I mean.”
Robinson is proving himself strong. In 2020, he was the first player from the XFL chosen in the NFL draft, then signed to the Panthers practice squad multiple times.
Then last Saturday, Robinson was called up. And on Sunday at the Panthers game, he made a successful play.
“It just felt so good to make a play. I didn’t know what to do after. I just started screaming,” Robinson said. “I think that’s probably what drove me to get here, so hard because I had to make it happen.”
Robinson said his mother is now cancer-free, though she’s still recovering from the impact of several strokes and seizures.
He said watching her push through all of this reminds him there’s nothing he can’t overcome.
(WATCH BELOW: OFF MINT: Panthers’ Ian Thomas on how his brother stepped in after losing his parents)
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