Nate Robinson stands, black hoodie over his head, at one end zone watching practice drills and reminiscing what his athletic career meant to him at Rainier Beach High School some 20 years ago.
It’s about as low-key as the bouncy, energetic Robinson can be around an athletic event.
The former Vikings three-sport star also might be wondering what’s in store for his 14-year-old son, Nahmier Robinson, as he starts his athletic career with the Vikings. Right now, Nahmier Robinson is just blending in, too.
But soon he might be a standout.
Nahmier Robinson is already a starting cornerback/safety for Beach, where his father’s star started to shine bright and carried over to the University of Washington in football and basketball and an 11-year NBA career.
Even though there might be a family bias, Nate knows talent and notes that his boy has it.
“He’s always told me he wanted to go to my high school,” Nate said. “He wanted to be a Beach Boy and represent Seattle. He wants to make his own journey and his own history. He can play anywhere on the field, that’s the beauty of being an athlete and when you love the game, you know you can play anywhere.
“You just want to be on the field and be out there to help your team. I told him he’s already ahead of the game.”
Nate knows there’s work ahead for his talented son.
“He’s just learning the X’s and O’s, and he’s really young,” Nate, also a cornerback in high school, said of Nahmier. “For him to be out here starting is definitely a big deal. I didn’t even start as a freshman. I was on JV.”
Lack of size and skeptics never deterred Nate, who started as a 5-foot-5 freshman and finished growing to 5-9 and 170 pounds by the time he graduated from Beach. Nahmier is 5-9 and 150.
“Everybody always wants a bigger or taller guy,” Nate said. “They always seemed to shy away from the little guy. For me, you know it was big things come in small packages. I told my son, ‘Let your game be so bright that people have got to put on sunglasses to look at you and look at your game. Let your energy and the way you play the game, let that do all the talking.’ ”
The young Robinson will be part of a youth movement that could pay off in the coming years for the Rainier Beach football program. Robinson, part of a team that is off to a 1-3 start, is one of four freshman starters for the Vikings.
“I just focus on what’s in front of me and what I have to do to be a better player,” said Nahmier, who has already registered a 37-inch vertical jump, still shy of his Dad’s 48-inch vertical. “I haven’t really gotten my grown-man strength yet. I’m out here because I love the game.”
Nahmier also figures to be part of Beach’s basketball program, with basketball coach Mike Bethea saying Nahmier is likely to play a lot on varsity. No telling which sport will emerge as No. 1.
“Nate was a special athlete around here,” said Rainier Beach football coach Corey Sampson, who graduated from Franklin in 1992.
Nate Robinson earned him a spot in the Seattle Public Schools athletics Hall of Fame and the retirement of his school’s No. 2 jersey in basketball. He led the Vikings to the Class 3A state title in 2002 and earned tournament MVP and Class 3A state Player of the Year honors.
Nahmier has heard stories about his father in his Beach heyday. His father was also an all-league football player and for a time owned the state record in the 110-meter hurdles (13.85 seconds).
“People talk about me being like my dad, but I don’t really feel that pressure,” he said.
Nahmier collected the first interception of his high-school career against Ballard on Sept. 21, Beach’s first Metro League loss to a public school in three seasons.
“He’s raw right now,” Sampson said. “He’ll be a D-I guy. He’s a different kind of guy than Nate. He’s quiet. He’s a smoother kind of guy. Nate ran with aggression and power.”
Nahmier joins fellow freshmen Dallas Afalava (defensive end), Jacob Sio (running back/defensive back) and Scott’Tre Humphrey (running back/defensive back) on a young Vikings team that lost 10 starters from last season to transfer. Add in speedy sophomore receiver Tyrone Taylor, and there’s a good foundation for future success.
“I want to build my future guys on varsity days instead of JV days,” Sampson said.
The program lost in last season’s 3A state quarterfinals following the school’s first appearance in the 3A state championship game (a 38-11 loss to Metro rival O’Dea) in 2017.
“About four or five years ago, we started a bunch of sophomores and freshmen and they grew up together and we played in the state championship with the same group of guys,” Sampson said. “I think this group of guys have the same amount of talent. I think we can be back there in a couple years. Guys like Nahmier are learning on the go.”
With his son participating, Nate is regular at almost every practice and sees the progress.
“I love all the kids down here,” he said “This school means so much to me.”