TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Janarius Robinson first had the idea two years ago, during his freshman season at Florida State.
After seeing his hometown of Panama City, Fla., besieged by a rash of violence, Robinson daydreamed about holding a free youth football camp that could give area kids something to smile about while showing the promise of a bright future.
But the demands of being a full-time, Division I student-athlete left Robinson with little free time, and the idea stayed just that – an idea.
Then came Hurricane Michael.
The Category 5 storm devastated the Florida panhandle last fall, causing an estimated $25 billion in damage. Panama City was among the hardest-hit areas, and by the time the storm was gone, Robinson’s family had lost its home.
That’s when Robinson knew that, free time or not, he had to do something.
“The hurricane came in October, and something just told me I needed to do it,” Robinson said. “Because of lot of kids got affected by it and went through it and were there.”
Robinson’s dream became a reality last weekend, when he and a handful of Florida State teammates led the first Win Within Football Camp at Panama City’s Tommy Oliver Stadium.
On a packed field that featured 200 campers, Robinson put area youth through the football paces – agility drills, position drills, 7-on-7 games and sprint races.
Campers were given lunch, a camp shirt, and plenty of face time with some of their favorite FSU football players.
Joining Robinson were current Seminoles Hamsah Nasirildeen, Joshua Kaindoh, Tre’ McKitty, Jaleel McRae, Leonard Warner III, Derrick McLendon II, Chaz Neal, Deonté Sheffield and Amari Gainer.
The camp had NFL pedigree, too. Washington star Chris Thompson, an FSU running back from 2009-12, was in attendance, as was Robinson’s old roommate, Brian Burns. Burns was drafted by Carolina in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft a few months ago.
“For those guys to come to my hometown with me and support me through what I’m doing with the camp, it really meant a lot,” Robinson said. “And it showed me that my teammates have my back in anything that I do.”
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The First Annual Win Within Football Camp ( @winwithin )was a success!! Thank you to everyone that came out and enjoyed the camp with us! Without you we wouldn’t have been able to bring this vision to life. Special thanks to all the volunteers, coaches, players, sponsors and overall everyone involved. See you guys next year #gainthewilltowin #attitude
Added McKitty: “He’s doing a great thing for his city back home, and that’s something I wanted to be a part of.”
Panama City, about 90 minutes west of Tallahassee, has a proud football tradition that boasts fierce high school rivalries, plenty of players that have made their marks at the collegiate level and more than a few who landed in the NFL.
Robinson, though, can’t remember another Panama City football player to come back and host a camp for younger generations.
Thinking about how much he would have loved a camp experience as a kid made his decision that much easier.
“I wanted to change it up,” he said. “I was able to do it, so why not do it?
“And show those kids that I’ve been through the same struggles as them. If I can do it, they can, too.”
It’s been nearly eight months since Michael hit, and while the national focus has turned elsewhere, recovery in Florida is still slow-going.
Robinson said that his family and friends in Panama City have “good days and bad days” as they continue adjusting to their new normal, although he’s still holding out hope that things are moving in the right direction.
Safe to say that Saturday was a good day.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Robinson said, “getting these kids’ minds and these parents’ minds off of it and giving them something positive to look at.”
Both Robinson and McKitty believe that type of attitude has become a big part of the FSU football team.
The Seminoles over the last few months have taken part in dozens of community service projects, both around the state and the globe.
A few months ago, McKitty, Caleb Ward and Michael Barulich were part of a group of FSU student-athletes that spent a week in Argentina with the FSU Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Just last weekend, a group of incoming FSU freshmen joined former Seminole star Nigel Bradham for a youth football camp in his hometown of Crawfordville, Fla.
And the Seminoles will gather at their Indoor Practice Facility later this month for their annual “Lift for Life” fundraiser. This year’s iteration is being spearheaded by linebacker DeCalon Brooks.
“People don’t always get to see the real us,” Robinson said. “So us going back in the community, showing people that we care and we’re regular people that have a platform to help out people, it really means a lot.”