Famous Irish success stories more than just genetics

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Fall Sundays in the Robinson household meant that the remote belonged to Mom. A South Side Chicago native, Valerie Robinson would make Bears games appointment viewing. Everyone else in the family would pay the gridiron little mind.

"We'd look at her like, 'OK, all right, we'll see you a little later on. We'll go do something else,' " her husband, David, quipped.

Added Corey, one of three sons: "She loves, loves, loves, loves the Bears, and she's all about football, really. None of us really liked it that much."

That sentiment is ironic now, considering the impact Corey Robinson has made at Notre Dame. The son of a Basketball Hall of Famer, Corey is the second-leading receiver on the Iriss football team. His lineage is hardly unique in a locker room dotted with sons of pro athletes past and present: Austin Collinsworth and Torii Hunter Jr. are notable contemporaries on a roster that features a cousin of NFL quarterback Matt Ryan (Mike McGlinchey), a nephew of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin (Austin Larkin), the sons of former NFL players George Atkinson (Josh) and Terry Hanratty (Conor) and, for good measure, the son of rock star Jon Bon Jovi (Jesse Bongiovi).

The behind-the-scenes work of these players' mothers proved to be as pivotal in getting them to this point as the obvious favorable genetics from their fathers.

Just ask Hunter Jr., whose mother, Katrina, was a jack of all trades on and off the field while his father, Torii, was making his name as an All-Star outfielder and Gold Glove winner for the Twins, Angels and Tigers. (The 18-year MLB veteran rejoined the Twins this offseason.)

"Having my dad away all the time, that was pretty tough," Hunter Jr. said. "So she picked up the slack, wherever it was. She drove me to practice, she would come in the batting cages and put balls on the tee — she didn't really know what she was talking about, but she was in there trying to help. She would pass me the ball when I had to shoot 100 shots or something like that. So she did what she could and she always picked up the slack whenever my dad couldn't be there for her."

Hunter Jr. said his father would miss the first few games of his high school football season every fall, but managed to make more contests than not, considering his MLB season would end in September or October. But Hunter Jr. doubled as a prep baseball player, and the timing of that campaign meant his father could catch only a select few games in-person.

Now a redshirt freshman receiver for Notre Dame, Hunter Jr. has gained a better appreciation of the sacrifices that have come with having a loving father who possesses a high-profile day job.

"It was kind of tough just because I had nobody telling me like — I'm just like, Where's my dad?" Hunter Jr. said. "I just wanted to see my dad growing up. But I have a greater understanding of it now because I'm going through it myself."

That does not mean Katrina ever took it easy on him — especially not when her son first put on the pads when he was 7 or 8 years old.

"I don't think she was one of the scared moms," Hunter Jr. said. "She was just out there, like if I got hit and I was on the ground, she would tell me to get up. She'd be screaming: 'Get up, you're not hurt,' whatever. So she was probably tougher in that sense."

In the Collinsworth household, the situation was nearly flipped.

"She's tried to get me to quit football every day of my life," Irish safety Austin Collinsworth joked of his mother, Holly. "She's told me to play golf, tennis, just about anything else besides football."

Collinsworth's father, NBC broadcaster Cris, played eight years as a receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, most of them relatively injury-free, at least compared to his son.

Collinsworth has not had anything resembling a clean bill of health since 2011, having suffered knee, back and multiple shoulder injuries, the latest one cutting the fifth-year senior's career short before Tuesday's finale, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl against LSU. He cracked that his mother's voice grew louder with each passing nick and bruise, but he refused to accept his fate until he was rendered physically incapable of taking the field.

"I think just me, man," Collinsworth said earlier this season, of what won his mother over. "I just love the game too much to give it up. I'm willing to suffer through the injuries to play the game I love."

There's a rationale that any parent could get behind.