Tough Love: Father’s Role More Like Critical Coach

By Bill Livingston
Updated: September 27, 2006

CLEVELAND — The player knew the coach would find something left undone in his game, a final step still untaken.

“I know there will be something. Probably a block I missed,” said Brian Robiskie, the Ohio State sophomore wide receiver, who made the catch that completed Troy Smith’s miracle in the mist Saturday.

The coach doesn’t give perfect scores. Never has, never will. “When I critique games, I don’t grade anyone 100 percent. A player gets 100, he thinks he’s got it made. When I critique Brian, he knows it’s just his dad being his dad,” said Terry Robiskie, who was once the Browns interim head coach and is now their wide receivers coach.

Brian knew Terry couldn’t make Saturday’s game against Penn State in Columbus. What he didn’t know was how his father reacted after Smith threw the rocket to him from beyond midfield.

Most of the Robiskie family had gone to the Ohio State game, so Terry had the house to himself. “I always look to see where Brian is on the field,” Terry said. “I knew he was out to the right on that play. Troy rolled his way, but then the pass rush made him turn around and scramble to the left. But he was still looking right, and there was not but one guy over to the right.”

If Smith wins the Heisman Trophy, this is the play, early in the fourth quarter at the rainy Horseshoe, OSU clinging to a 7-3 lead, that will be run again and again.

Smith whipcracked a pass that traveled 53 yards in the air to the distant end zone.

“That ball was up there a long time. That ball was up there a lifetime,” said Brian.

“Hurry up, ball! Hurry up, ball!” Terry was shouting in his living room.

The coach knew the safety, Anthony Scirotto, was closing. He knew a cornerback, Tony Davis, was also racing over. Brian went up and got the perfectly thrown ball instead.

“Nobody was home to high-five, so I started running around the living room, screaming and jumping up and down on the sofa like I was Tom Cruise,” Terry said.

An instant later, the flinty-eyed coach was back at work, watching the replay. “He did a good job catching the ball with his body, knowing the DB was coming,” Terry analyzed. “He’s seen Kellen Winslow Jr. do that for us.”

Brian has the size (6-3, 195 pounds) to make such tactics useful. The height also made him a perfect fit for what OSU looks for in wide receivers. “Chris Sanders, Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, David Boston, Michael Jenkins were all rangy guys. Brian fits the profile,” Terry said.

Only rarely, you see, does he drop his dispassionate, detached coach’s mask.

“Coaches’ sons are held to higher standards,” Terry said. “Sometimes, when Brian did something wrong, I’d just go berserk. My wife had to remind me that I haven’t told Brian things as often as I tell Braylon Edwards or Dennis Northcutt. I haven’t held those guys on my chest, rocking them to sleep. I’ve had Brian for 19 years.”

It was a bittersweet weekend for the coach. His Browns pupil, Edwards, had a big game Sunday, but the team lost late and close to Baltimore. “I almost told him, ‘Good game.’ But what was good about it? We lost,” said Terry.

He is a hard man. On the outside.