Retired NFL player Eugene Robinson was the keynote speaker at Troutman’s third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Day of Service.


About 100 community members who attended the Town of Troutman’s third annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast and Day of Service on Friday were treated to an inspiring keynote address from 16-year NFL veteran Eugene Robinson.

Career Academy and Technical School Principal Larry Rogers welcomed attendees and lauded Dr. King “for inspiring a nation to confront its deepest rooted prejudice and strive for a more inclusive and harmonious society.”

CATS Principal Larry Rogers addresses the crowd at the MLK event.

“Let us reflect on the profound impact Dr. King has had on our lives and the progress we have made as a result,” Rogers said.

Town Manager Ron Wyatt introduced dignitaries, including Harmony Mayor Sean Turner and Councilman Chris Pierce, Troutman Mayor Teross Young and council members Felina Harris, Paul Henkel, Eddie Nau, and Jerry Oxsher, Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Jeff James, I-SS Deputy Superintendent Billie Berry, other I-SS staff and administration, and Troutman Citizen of the Year Mary Starks.

Mayor Young gave the opening invocation, thanking God for the life and legacy of Dr. King, a man who dedicated his life to justice for all. Young asked that everyone apply King’s passion for unity, open minds, and understanding.

“We pray for strength and courage to confront the injustices that may still exist in our world today. Grant us the determination to stand up against any discrimination, hatred, or prejudice as we actively work for a society where every individual is treated with dignity and respect,” Young said.

After enjoying a hot breakfast prepared by the CATS culinary students under the direction of instructor Nate Turner, Wyatt introduced Robinson, a three-time Super Bowl and two-time Pro Bowl player, who played at Seattle, Green Bay, and Atlanta before retiring from the Carolina Panthers in 2000.

Today, Robinson works as the color analyst for the Carolina Panthers Radio Network, is co-host of the “Charlotte Today” show on WCNC, and is the head football and wrestling coach at Charlotte Christian.

Robinson played a rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the saxophone before delving into his talk on confronting adversity. He recounted a humiliating moment in his early playing career when he tackled the Raiders’ Marcus Allen, who was blocking for the legendary Bo Jackson.

Robinson was proud until he saw Bo Jackson barreling toward him, catching him knee to chest, knocking the wind out of Robinson and banging his head along the astroturf so hard it knocked his helmet sideways.

The Seahawks crowd jeered Robinson for the play. “I wanted to run and hide, but there was nowhere for me to run,” he told the crowd.

A few plays later, Jackson broke through two defenders and Robinson once again had to face him. Though doubting himself, Robinson shook off his fears and ran full tilt at Jackson, this time pushing Jackson out of bounds.

“When I got up, I was a different person. That day marked my career. I got embarrassed, and I didn’t want to be there,” he said. “But I listened to the mandates of God and listen to the authority of my coaches. Every time I was obeying, it worked out.”

“It changed the way I tackled. I became one of the best tacklers in the NFL. I got over 1,400 tackles, seventh on the list of the league, because I wasn’t afraid.”

After getting knocked down, Robinson learned, “You got to get on up! You have to dig deep and get on up,” just like the way civil rights pioneers had to persevere in the face of hardship and trials.

Robinson tells the athletes that he coaches that they are going to get knocked down, “but you got to get on up. The sin is to stay down there. Get on up!”

He remembered Reggie White, an all-time great and his Green Bay Packers roommate, saying that Christians sometimes failed to reach out to their brothers and sisters who are down. Instead, they need to come along side with care and help to those engaged in life’s battles.

Robinson has childhood memories of his family’s sadness when Dr. King was killed.

“I look at now how much the country has changed, how much opportunities changed, and I look at the community of Troutman and the things you highlighted here,” he said. “Thank you for inviting me to your spot!”

Robinson also addressed the challenges of exponential growth in Troutman. He compared Troutman to a caterpillar eating the leaves, waiting to reach the full potential God has planned for it. Robinson believes that God is in the process of doing something great in Troutman that folks do not now comprehend.

He urged the community to live by the words of Jesus: “Not my will, but Your will be done.” God uses rain and sunshine, good and bad, to do something different, added Robinson.

Robinson ended by recalling the unity of the country, now so hyper-partisan, in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks. He remembered Congressmen of both parties unified on the U.S. Capitol steps, joining in when someone began singing “God Bless America.”

“There’s something about struggle and adversity that makes everybody jump in and lock hands, and then suddenly we’re strong. Together we’re strong,” he said.

Robinson then played the song on his sax to recall that unity in adversity. “What was so true about that moment was that it was galvanizing for our country.”

“If you don’t feel the weight of that and if we can go ahead and stop talking about petty stuff that doesn’t mean anything and come up with a little faith. We need to move forward as a country,” concluded Robinson.

After the program, attendees fanned out to pick up debris along Murdock Road and Old Murdock Road as part of the MLK Day of Service. Other projects were postponed until Earth Day because of the threat of inclement weather.


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