AUBURN, Ala. – When Travaris Robinson walks into Jordan-Hare Stadium, he thinks back to his playing days and one specific play.
Some fans might remember the fumble he recovered his freshman year that saved Auburn against Appalachian State. Others might recall his first-quarter interception against LSU in 2002 that helped ignite a rout over a Tigers team that was ranked in the top 10. But that’s not what Robinson remembers.
He remembers the Georgia game from his senior year. He remembers Michael Johnson going up over Horace Willis to catch the go-ahead touchdown and prevent Auburn from playing in the SEC championship game.
“Every time I step on the field, that’s the first place I always look,” Robinson said. “In that end zone right there and remember that moment. That was the worst day of my life.”
Unfortunately, Robinson has had to relive that memory quite a bit more since he agreed to become the defensive backs coach at Auburn this past January. But that didn’t stop him from taking the job. That didn’t stop him from returning to his alma mater. It was something he had always wanted to do.
“I’m excited to be back at Auburn,” Robinson said. “It’s the first time I’ve been to a new place that I didn’t have to get lost in and find my way around. I kind of know everything. I know everyone. All of the little local things I used to do, I do.
“It’s nice for me to see -- not just the Jay Jacobs, it’s nice to see them – but it’s the custodians, it’s the secretaries that have been here for a long time. It’s people like that I just love to see. They watched me come in six to 10 years ago, and then to see me now. I’m excited about that part of it.”
After a short stint in the NFL, Robinson returned to Auburn as a graduate assistant in 2006 and 2007. It was the beginning of a coaching career that included stops at Western Kentucky, Southern Miss, Texas Tech and most recently, Florida, where he worked under Will Muschamp for four years.
So when Muschamp was hired as the new defensive coordinator at Auburn, it was an easy decision to bring Robinson.
“Travaris is one of the nation’s best young coaches and recruiters, who is very familiar with Auburn and the Southeastern Conference,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said when Robinson was hired. “He was an outstanding player at Auburn and will be a tremendous asset for our staff and players. We’re excited to have Travaris back at Auburn.”
To this day, Robinson still keeps in touch with a number of his former Auburn teammates -- players such as Ronnie Brown, Marcus McNeil, Marcel Willis and Jeris McIntyre.
McIntyre, a three-year starter at wide receiver for the Tigers, still remembers that first summer in 1999 when he and Robinson arrived at Auburn on the same day. The two lived together the first year and formed a bond that was practically a brotherhood.
“I know coach Gus Malzahn always preaches family because it is like a family,” McIntyre said, recalling his time on the Plains. “It’s a family atmosphere at Auburn, as it always has been, and will always be.
“With Gus, you get more of that feel because he’s hired a lot of guys that are former players – the Rodney Garners, the Dameyune Craigs, T-Rob. You have that feel of ,‘Hey, this really and truly is family.’ I think the players are feeling that, and I think that helps the program as a whole when you have guys playing for one another like they’re true brothers.”
Now, once again, Robinson is a part of the Auburn family.
This fall, he has the unenviable task of piecing together a secondary that saw five players transfer during the offseason. But he’s up to the challenge. He always has been.
“We're thin, but we're kind of thin in the right way,” Robinson told the Montgomery Advertiser earlier this month. “We have a lot of guys we feel are going to be good players, so we have to continue to build upon that."