During his standout career as an Illinois State wide receiver, Laurent Robinson became acquainted with a pair of Central Catholic High School players who had a bit of gridiron talent themselves.
“They used to come over and hang out and play video games,” Robinson said of Josh Brent and Michael Hoomanawanui. “We’ve kept a relationship ever since.”
That relationship is renewed today under an NFL spotlight as Hoomanawanui and the St. Louis Rams meet Robinson, Brent and the Dallas Cowboys in a 3:15 p.m. game at Cowboys Stadium.
Teammates at Central Catholic and the University of Illinois, Hoomanawanui and Brent will line up as opponents for the first time since Bloomington-Normal junior football.
“It will be interesting but fun,” said Hoomanawanui. “It will be all business. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if we actually get a chance to face up on each other.”
Hoomanawanui is a tight end the Rams refer to simply as “Illinois Mike.” Brent is a defensive lineman for the Cowboys.
“He’s one of my best friends,” said Brent. “We’re on opposite teams, but once it’s over it’s over.”
After 13 receptions for 146 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season of 2010, Hoomanawanui has been limited to two catches for 18 yards by a pair of concussions and a calf injury.
“My concussions are fine. I feel great,” he said. “It’s part of the game and not a factor anymore.”
The Rams are winless in five games and will be without quarterback Sam Bradford (ankle) today.
“The season obviously hasn’t gone the way we want it. But we realize it’s a long season, and we can still do what we’ve wanted all along,” said Hoomanawanui. “The new offense is great. We are really getting better each and every day.”
The 320-pound Brent had 14 tackles in 2010 and has three stops thus far as a back up to nose tackle Jay Ratliff for the 2-3 Cowboys.
“Definitely after a year under my belt I know what to expect and what they expect of you,” Brent said. “It’s not easier, but it’s not a shock.”
ISU’s career leader in receptions and receiving yardage, Robinson has caught 12 passes for 208 yards in his fifth NFL season. Robinson spent two seasons in Atlanta and two in St. Louis before signing with Dallas.
“The first practice I tweaked my hamstring and they let me go,” Robinson said. “But they signed me back and it’s worked out well. Everything is going good. The body is feeling great.”
Robinson has been a valuable receiver for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who faced ISU in his Eastern Illinois days.
“It will be fun to see them before the game,” Robinson said of Hoomanawanui and Brent. “But during the game it’s all business. You’ve got to go to work.”