Family values, on and off the field

Leroy Robinson

Has there ever been a football family so connected by a love of one sport as the Robinson clan from Wadmalaw Island?

This time of year, the four Robinson boys are bound by an affection for a game and each other that started with their first team, the Wadmalaw Island Patriots.

Leroy, 57, would go to S.C. State and then the Philadelphia Eagles.

James, 55, played at Clemson and then in the U.S. Football League.

George, 53, left Clemson after a couple of years.

Ken, now 50, played at South Carolina and one year with the Washington Redskins.

It was their mom who pushed and supported her boys to play football. Their father didn’t care for it because it took them away from their chores.

Leroy, who works with two of his three brothers in a trucking and tire company, said his mother died when he was a teenager and she never saw him play. But she was the one who observed how the boys were drawn to the game. James believes his mom just wanted a few hours of peace, so that’s why she encouraged them to go to practice.

The Robinson boys were introduced to hard work at an early age. They also were familiar with something else that was part of the scenery: discipline.

Leroy says all the brothers were coachable because “my dad only told us to do something one time.” If it didn’t get done, there were consequences.

The grandparents had an even greater impact on James. He lived with James and Elizabeth Heyward after his mother died.

“My grandfather was 6-foot-2 and all man from the ground up,” James says. His grandfather wasn’t too fond of football because it kept the grandchildren from helping in the fields.

Granddaddy James would say, “When practice is over, somebody still needs to go in the river with me.”

Shrimping and fishing in Bohicket Creek still needed to be done, football or not.

Many a night, James would try to catch fish and shrimp in the dark.

Leroy, James and George would play at St. John’s for Coach Bob Biggerstaff.

Ken would play at St. Andrews for Dave Spurlock.

All four would be team captains. They were leaders and their dad always preached they should never do anything to embarrass the family name.

How would you like these guys around the supper table at the family reunion? Here are their measurements: Leroy, 6-foot-5, 280 pounds; James 6-foot-5, 300; George, 5-foot-11, 225; and Ken, 6-foot-2, 240.

It would never be a good idea to show up late when it’s time to eat at the Robinson household.

Leroy is known best by his nickname “Foots.” He wears a size 18 shoe. That’s a serious foundation. But this Robinson clan is whole lot more than four brothers who played a game and respected and loved each other.

They’re men of character who were raised in the fresh, fertile dirt of Wadmalaw Island.

None of them lifted weights until they entered college. Yet, they were strong.

They never questioned their coach, because their parents taught them to respect authority.

They never complained about working after practice, because the work wasn’t done until the work was done.

OK, so times in rural Charleston County were simpler 40 years ago. But as a society today, we’re not better, are we?

Many of those simple principles just don’t seem to matter or exist these days.

Strength, respect, work ethic. What happened?

That rich, black earth on Wadmalaw produced some strong men with core values who still love a game that’s played with a ball that takes some unpredictable bounces.

Reach Warren Peper at