Janarius Robinson first contemplated holding a football camp in his hometown a few years ago. The busy schedule of a student-athlete didn’t allow him to immediately hold one in Panama City.
But the devastation of last October with Hurricane Michael prompted him to make plans.
“I felt it would be the perfect time to do it for the kids the following summer coming up, just to give them a little time away from the stuff that’s happening to them,” said Robinson, Florida State’s junior defensive end. “Just something to give the kids a little breather from the things that are going on in their life.”
Robinson held the “Win Within” camp in late June for about 200 youth in Panama City. The day was filled with activity, from drills to 7-on-7 games. Robinson said he knew of college athletes coming back to Panama City and holding camps when he was a boy but couldn’t recall ever participating in one.
Providing a memory for an afternoon, putting smiles on boys’ faces, is a moment he appreciates.
“It feels great to give them something that I didn’t get to be a part of growing up,” Robinson said. “They know I’m from Panama City, for those kids to see someone that has been through what they have been through … just let them know that they can do it too.”
Most of FSU’s team was allowed to go on vacation the day before. But a small group of players stayed in Tallahassee to make the trip to Panama City and join Robinson. Among them were Joshua Kaindoh, Derrick McLendon, Leonard Warner, Amari Gainer, Jaleel McRae, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Tre’ McKitty, Chaz Neal and Deonte Sheffield. Former FSU tailback Chris Thompson also participated.
“For those guys to stay back one extra day and come back to my hometown and give back with me it really means a lot and shows how much those guys support me,” Robinson said.
FSU’s teammates have done what they can to help Robinson in what has been a difficult 10 months. When Hurricane Michael came ashore as a Category 5 storm, it ruined the house where Robinson and his mom, Cherine Duncan, lived.
Robinson received a waiver from the NCAA to allow friends and FSU fans to contribute to a GoFundMe to help raise money to rebuild their house. More than $140,000 was raised in just a few weeks. Robinson said one of the challenges in Panama City is the lack of construction workers, which has prompted a delay in their house being rebuilt. While there’s no timeline to break ground, Robinson is appreciative for the contributions.
He said Panama City will need more time to rebuild, too.
“Some places in Panama City look just like the hurricane has been there two days ago,” Robinson said. “But some places are up and running and getting back to some sense of normalcy. It’s going to take some time for the city to get back.”
Robinson also spent part of the summer working as for Seminole Boosters, Inc., as part of a program where student-athletes call season-ticket holders. While boosters may be surprised to pick up the phone and hear from an FSU football player, it was Robinson who said he wanted to say hello, have a conversation and talk about daily life instead of just football.
The calls helped build a stronger connection between the players and fans. And it’s already a relationship where Robinson has a value for the boosters’ donations toward his scholarship.
“To have this scholarship to Florida State, it means a lot,” Robinson said. “I’m very blessed to have this opportunity here at Florida State, to play football for this great program.”