Spectators headed to Hancock Stadium for Illinois State's 1 p.m. FCS playoff game against Northern Iowa on Saturday are likely hoping for a sunny day.

Just two years ago, Laurent Robinson would have dreaded such conditions.

But the former Illinois State standout wide receiver and NFL player will be on hand Saturday to present a financial gift to his alma mater and is optimistic the concussion woes that played a role in ending his pro career are behind him.

"I'm feeling good. I'm enjoying life and spending time with my kids," Robinson said earlier this week from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Robinson's breakout NFL season came in 2011 when he caught 54 passes for 858 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Dallas Cowboys. He signed a five-year, $32.5-million ($13.6 guaranteed) contract with Jacksonville in March of 2012.

Robinson caught 24 passes for 252 yards in seven games for the Jaguars that year before four concussions over a four-month span ended his season and ultimately his career.

"It was definitely tough. Some nights I couldn't sleep," he said. "I couldn't be around my daughter because crying and light would give me headaches. It was a tough time. It took me a while to get over it."

Robinson attempted a comeback in 2013 but got no offers from NFL teams.

"Teams were very interested in me, but with my concussion history some of the doctors wouldn't pass me on a physical because of the risk," the 29-year-old Robinson said. "I hate to say it's over, but I have to accept the fact it's over.

"Teams aren't thinking about me anymore. They are moving on to younger, healthier guys. That's the nature of the business."

A third-round draft pick out of ISU in 2007, Robinson caught 42 passes in two seasons with Atlanta and 47 passes in 2009-10 for St. Louis. His one season in Dallas proved to be the highlight of his career.

"That was absolutely the best year of my life," he said. "We (wife Kathryn) got married. I had a good relationship with (quarterback Tony) Romo and the coaches loved me. They put me in the game and let me play. The injury to Miles Austin opened up things, and I showed what I can do."

Robinson, who caught 192 passes for 3,007 yards and 29 touchdowns from 2003-06 for ISU, could not resist the security of Jacksonville's contract proposal. Dallas had wanted him back but was not willing to offer as much as the Jaguars.

"I didn't want to leave at all," said Robinson. "Dallas wasn’t going to be able to compensate me with all the other contracts on the team. I had to make a business decision to go to Jacksonville. It was the best decision for me financially, but football wise it was not that smart of a decision."

Robinson was examined by a doctor recently and "seemed to be doing well." He still suffers from the occasional headache but has no way of knowing if they are related to past concussions.

Anxious to see the Redbirds in person, Robinson has been "following them like crazy. I've been trying to get up there and it hasn't worked out. I'm excited to check them out.

"I want to give back (financially) to the school that helped me get where I am today and show a little appreciation for what they've done for me."

Laurent and Kathryn have two children. Daughter Jade is 2 and son Micah was born this past October.

"We’ve been talking about what my next move is going to be," he said. "We haven't come to a conclusion yet."



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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