Tennessee Stat Book
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His motivation, however, was more personal than his Skyhawk teammates at UT Martin.
Cody wanted to play in the stadium where his dad had been a star.
A dad he's never met: Tony Robinson.
Cody is a junior defensive end who will be in the starting lineup when the Skyhawks take on the Vols in the 2010 season-opener. Kickoff is 6 p.m. on pay-per-view.
"I always wanted to grow up and play at Tennessee," Cody said in a phone interview.
"I even wrote 'em a letter telling 'em I wanted to come there and play football."
To UT fans, Robinson was the talented quarterback who emerged as a star in the 1984 season. He helped launch the Vols toward the 1985 SEC title before suffering a season-ending injury against Alabama on Oct. 19, 1985.
From there, Robinson's story turns sad.
He was arrested on a drug charge days after the Sugar Bowl win over Miami and has been in and out of jail most of the 25 years since.
To Cody, Robinson is a mythical hero of sorts, one who has always hung just out of reach.
"I talked to him on the phone when I was in sixth grade," Cody said. "He told me he was in Miami and wanted me to come down there.
"After that I never heard from him."
Nor has much of anyone in the UT football family. A feeler was made to bring Robinson back in 2005 for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Sugar Bowl-winning Vols, but it didn't happen. He is believed to be still around his hometown of Tallahassee, Fla.
Cody grew up in St. Louis with his mother, Shapell Rice, and her family. His grandfather, Norbert Cody, a middleweight boxer, was a more tangible athletic hero and role model.
"Our family is real close," Cody said. "We've got each other's backs.
"To be honest, my mom was my mom and my dad. She's a strong woman."
Cody's mom met Robinson in Knoxville when he was back in town following a brief stint with the Washington Redskins during the NFL players strike of 1987.
She made several attempts to get Robinson involved in her son's life but the efforts never amounted to anything.
Rice drives the four hours to Martin for every home game. She and several family members will be in Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.
"I'm so proud of him as a parent," she said Thursday. "I've never had a serious problem with him; not one.
"My son is a very good football player, and (Saturday) it's almost like it's coming full circle.
"To see him play where his dad was 'the' ballplayer."
Cody, a business major, has dreams of being a big-time player at UT Martin's level and eventually getting a shot at the NFL.
He's listed at 6-foot-2, 237 pounds. He picked UT Martin over several other schools that recruited him because the community's slow pace was attractive.
"I didn't need to party to have fun, and I didn't need females to have fun," he said. "I saw they had a family-type atmosphere.
"And another deciding factor was hopefully getting the chance to play Tennessee."
Cody didn't wait until this week to study Tennessee game film. He has a copy of the Vols' 1985 win over No. 1 Auburn, the one that landed his dad on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
He also has one of his dad's old UT jerseys, given to him by Kenneth "B.B." Cooper, his dad's UT teammate who has been a family friend.
"My uncles and my grandpa, they tell me, 'your dad was something else,' " Cody said.
Cody wishes he could have found out what his dad was like first-hand. But he holds no grudge.
"I'm not mad at him," he said. "I understand people go through things.
"Hopefully, in the near future or whenever the time is right I'll get to meet him.
"It's a void in my life."
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.