Eddie Robinson’s Wing-T man remembered in services Saturday

Grambling State University Coach Eddie Robinson started experimenting in the 1950s with the Wing-T offensive strategy.

But it wasn’t until Jerry Robinson came to Grambling in the late 1950s as a running back for the Tigers that the Wing-T started working well for Robinson. After Jerry’s arrival, the Wing-T became Eddie Robin- son’s signature offensive strategy.

“Jerry Robinson is the one who made the Wing-T famous for my dad,” said Eddie Robinson Jr., son of the late legendary coach. “He was the first in a long line of those guys – Essex Johnson, Frank Lewis, Trumaine Johnson, Jake Reed. They all went on to play in the pros.”

He said in the wingback position, the player was a combination of a runner, a receiver and a blocker.

“You had to do it all as a wingback,” he said. “It took a pretty good athlete to excel at that position. You threw passes; you would bring on a lot of plays, like the Green Bay Packers. The wingback was also the primary blocker.”

But Jerry Robinson meant more to Eddie Robinson Jr. personally than just one of the many famous guys who played for his legendary father.

“He was a mentor and a friend who cared about me,” he said. “I was fortunate enough in high school and elementary school to have many talented Grambling athletes as role models and mentors – Jerry Robinson, Ernie Ladd, Rosy Taylor. “The list can go on and on.”

He said Jerry Robinson took up a lot of time with him. “When I was in high school, Jerry would come to my games. When you are a 14- or 15-year-old kid, that was huge.”

These mentoring ways of Jerry Robinson started long before he came to Grambling. He was a people person as a young man growing up in rural North Louisiana – in Dodson, Winnfield and Jonesboro.

“Jerry was like a brother to me,” said niece Brenda Headley, who grew up with him in Dodson. “He was always helping people. Jerry was the type of person everyone admired. I lived with him until I was 16. He was compassionate. I’ve never seen Jerry angry. He was always smiling, treating people the way he wanted to be treated.”

Jerry was always the jovial one, full of laughter, said Headley, a retired school teacher who lives in Long Island, N. Y.

“We always had fun,” she said. “When he played with the (New York) Jets, he stayed with me briefly. He always had the same demeanor. Although he was a great football player, he never looked down on anyone.”

Former co-worker M.L. Gray tells the same story about Jerry.

“He was a people person,” said Gray, a retired General Motors worker who began working with Jerry at General Motors in 1970.

“He loved to laugh. He loved to talk. He tried to figure out how you were thinking,” said Gray, who was called “Rabbit” by those close to him. 

Gray said they had a special thing going on between themselves. He said when Jerry greeted him, he would yell, “M.L. Gray!” Gray would respond just as loudly, “Jerry Robinson!”

That is the legacy of Jerry Walker Robinson, who was born March 9, 1939, in Dodson. He was the youngest of 11 children born to the union of Charlie and Emma Walker Robinson. 

He was a member of True Rock Baptist Church in Detroit.

He was educated in North Louisiana in Dodson and Win- nfield before attending Grambling State University. Jerry held the scoring record in football for 10 years at Grambling, where he was known as the “Gray Ghost” because of his exceptional speed.

In 1962, he was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in what was then the American Football League. He finished his professional football career in 1966 with the New York Jets. After professional football, Jerry began his 33-year career with General Motors in Detroit.

Homegoing services for Jerry Walker Robinson will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at True Rock Church, 17142 Rowe in Detroit.