It’s part of the legend of Nate Robinson — he was a two-sport star in high school in Seattle, a very good defensive corner on the football team as well as a hoops standout. He went on to the University of Washington and played one year as a cornerback there before deciding to focus full time on basketball.
He’s entering his ninth NBA season now, so we can officially call that a smart decision. If you don’t think so, you can ask the $24 million he will have earned by the end of his two-year contract in Denver. He’s a fan favorite (not quite the same with his coaches) because he’s a fearless gunner who can create his own shot — and at 5’9” that’s fun to watch.
Still, Robinson is convinced he would have been a great NFL cornerback. I mean great. Here are the words of the man himself from the Believe the Hype NBA podcast (transcribed by Dan Devine at Ball Don’t Lie).
If I was in the NFL, I’d probably be at least, like, the first or second DB in the NFL. One, two or three, I’d say, because [Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback] Darrelle] Revis is pretty solid, [Arizona Cardinals corner] Patrick Peterson is pretty solid and you got my man Sherman holding it down. It’d be a tough position, but the level that I was playing football at at the time, I was — you know, it was fun for me and it came pretty easy. […] And I only gave it a year in college, so for me, it’d be pretty scary to think about, you know, my future in football. If I really gave it my all, and stopped focusing on basketball, and gave everything I had on football, I’d probably be one of the best corners the NFL has ever seen.
Nate Robinson’s fearlessness knows no limits.
I’d say a 5’9” corner lasting long in the world of long, lanky NFL wideouts would be a stretch, but then the same is true of 5’9” guards in the NBA. His athleticism and aggressive style helps him overcome a lot.
But the length of the average NFL career is not nine years, and not many guys make $24 mil at it. So I’m going to stick with this being the right call.