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Follow live: Athletics, Astors take their rivalry to Game 1 of the ALDS



9th Gurriel hit sacrifice fly to left, Tucker scored, Correa to second. 10 5 9th Correa singled to right, Bregman scored, Tucker to third. 9 5 7th Correa homered to center (408 feet). 8 5 6th Brantley singled to right, Altuve scored. 7 5 6th Altuve singled to left, Maldonado scored and Springer scored, Altuve to second. 6 5 6th Springer doubled to shallow left, Reddick scored, Maldonado to third. 4 5 5th Canha hit sacrifice fly to right, Semien scored. 3 5 4th Olson homered to center (406 feet). 3 4 4th Correa homered to center (421 feet), Tucker scored. 3 3 4th Bregman homered to left (370 feet). 1 3 3rd Murphy homered to center (414 feet). 0 3 2nd Davis homered to right center (418 feet), Olson scored. 0 2


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Can Joe Milton put a stop to Michigan’s quarterback carousel?



When Michigan plays Minnesota on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC), it will mark the first time Jim Harbaugh opens a season as head coach of the Wolverines with a starting quarterback he recruited out of high school.

Let that sink in.

Harbaugh has had holdovers from the previous staff and transfers brought in in an attempt to patch holes in his five previous seasons in Ann Arbor. One of his recruits started a few games, but never someone who won the job in the offseason.

Quarterback hasn’t been Michigan’s only problem, but it is a position that has held its offense back in the past. In 2019, Michigan had a solid offensive line, playmaking wide receivers on the outside and options at running back. But it was missing that final piece.

Coaches hope they now have that in Joe Milton.

“If you said who’s probably one of the most improved players on the team, obviously I would like to throw Joe in that mix,” offensive coordinator Josh Gattis said. “I don’t want to just say that from a physical standpoint, when we’re talking about improvement and improvement comes in a number of different ways. Leadership, physically and then obviously being able to learn the offense.”

Harbaugh wouldn’t go as far as naming Milton the starter even though he has been running with the first team in practice, but all signs point to the 2018 four-star recruit taking over. A 6-foot-5, 243-pound quarterback from Pahokee, Florida, Milton has the tools and ability to elevate the Wolverines’ offense. Some of his coaches and teammates believe he could be a future first-round NFL draft pick.

As everyone focuses how Michigan’s offense will perform against its toughest competition — mainly Ohio State — it begs the question of whether Milton is the Wolverines’ missing piece.

“I think that he’s, I know that he’s very ready. He’s playing with so much confidence,” safety Brad Hawkins said. “The way that he’s very poised, he comes out there every day ready to work. His confidence is just off the charts and I just can’t wait to see what he brings to the table and what he does for this offense and this football team Saturday.”

Struggles under center

In Harbaugh’s first recruiting class, 2015, Michigan signed ESPN 300 quarterback Zach Gentry, a 6-7, 237-pound prospect from New Mexico who flipped from Texas. He also signed four-star in-state quarterback Alex Malzone. Both of them were options down the road as Harbaugh brought in Jake Rudock, a transfer from Iowa meant to be more a transition piece than a trend-starter.

Rudock threw for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns in a 10-3 season, and there was positivity around the program despite losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. But Gentry switched to tight end once he hit campus and Malzone never attempted a pass in three years, eventually transferring to Miami (Ohio).

In 2016, Michigan turned to Brady Hoke recruit Wilton Speight and Houston transfer John O’Korn. Behind them was Brandon Peters, rated the No. 3 pocket passer in the 2016 recruiting class, a quarterback Michigan hoped would be Harbaugh’s big recruit and who was slated to sit and develop before taking over under center.

Michigan went 10-3 again that season, with losses to Iowa and Ohio State, as well as Florida State in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Speight completed 61.6% of his passes and threw for 2,538 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

“Joe got here a semester before me, but I’ve been around Joe just as much as anybody and he’s just lights out right now. It’s very exciting to play alongside him.” Michigan wide receiver Ronnie Bell

The next season brought on many doubts at the quarterback position. Speight broke three vertebrae in his back in a Week 4 win over Purdue, which brought O’Korn and Peters to the field.

The three combined for only nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season. As a team, Michigan finished 113th among all FBS programs in completion percentage, 108th in yards per attempt, 76th in interceptions per attempt and 123rd in touchdowns per attempt.

The hope surrounding Peters deflated after he went 36-for-63 with 482 yards and four touchdowns in games against Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland and Wisconsin. He relinquished the job to Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson and ultimately transferred to Illinois prior to the 2019 season.

Patterson won the job over Dylan McCaffrey, an ESPN 300 quarterback in the 2017 class who has attempted only 35 passes in 11 games — and announced he will transfer after this season — and Milton, who was rated the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class.

In 2018, Michigan was 79th in passing yards per game with only 215.7 yards per game, 29th in yards per attempt, 65th in interceptions per attempt, 48th in passing touchdowns overall and 43rd in interceptions overall.

The 2019 season started off rough, but there was a change in the middle of Gattis’ first season as offensive coordinator. Michigan had the biggest improvement in Bill Connelly’s SP+, a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency, from the first half to the second, going from 66th to 21st.

The offense started to click in the three games prior to the matchup against Ohio State, a stretch during which Patterson averaged 300.3 yards per game, threw 10 touchdowns to only one interception, and threw catchable attempts on 81.53% of his passes.

The problem, however, came in the five regular-season games against ranked opponents, which accounted for three of Michigan’s four losses in 2019. In those five games, Patterson averaged a 49.6% completion percentage and 209.4 yards passing. He had five touchdowns to four interceptions and his catchable attempts dropped to 72.54%.

It’s those games against Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State — the biggest stage — where Michigan is looking for leadership and a quarterback who can perform.

That’s where the Wolverines hope Milton can step in.

“We’ve got a quarterback leading the offense, leading the entire team in a very special way,” defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “You look at Joe and you just, you’re just excited for Joe because you know everything he’s gone through to get to this point. … It’s like, seeing all of that come to fruition is incredible and what we have at quarterback is very special.

“A very special leader, very special guy and I’m very excited for him.”

‘You knew one day … it’ll be his time’

When the Wolverines signed Milton in 2018, an assistant coach said privately he believed Milton would eventually be the best quarterback Harbaugh has had at Michigan.

What Milton brings to the table that’s different than Michigan’s past quarterbacks begins with his physical attributes. He has the size and the ability to make plays with his feet. Gattis and defensive coordinator Don Brown also note Milton’s power with his arm, something that can be a blessing and a curse. That has been part of his development: He doesn’t need to use all his speed and power in every throw.

“Everyone’s got all five fingers, so there’s no fingers getting jammed out there, no one losing anything,” Gattis said. “His accuracy has been exceptional, and that was one of the things we had talked about as far as taking RPMs off of it. Knowing how to give a catchable ball and that was never — accuracy as far as ball placement was never an issue.

“Sometimes the issue had been in the past is whether or not those receivers could catch it that fast.”

What might separate Milton most, though, is his confidence and his command of the offense and the team. Brown said Milton sometimes pops into his office to ask about coverages and the defense’s different looks to help him prepare. Leadership can’t be quantified and being a vocal leader is something that is learned, but Michigan has needed that presence at quarterback.

“You watch him grow since freshman year and I go back to Joe’s freshman year when he was scout quarterback,” Kemp said. “How he led the scout team, you knew one day that, OK, this guy right here, when it’s his time, it’ll be his time and it’s going to be very special. And now he’s grown up into his third year with the same guys that he used to lead on that scout team.”

Sure, Michigan’s recent quarterback history cautions against buying into the hype, and Milton has yet to start a game for the Wolverines. But there is a different sense of optimism when it comes to Milton.

“Joe as a quarterback, I talked about it with one of the guys probably like a week ago, this is the best I’ve ever seen Joe,” Ronnie Bell, Michigan’s leading receiver in 2019, said in September. “Joe got here a semester before me, but I’ve been around Joe just as much as anybody and he’s just lights out right now. It’s very exciting to play alongside him.”

The Wolverines have recruited more speed to accommodate what Gattis wants to see on the field, in the form of wide receivers Mike Sainristil, Giles Jackson, A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson. There’s finally a group of running backs to give Michigan a strong ground game, with Zach Charbonnet, Chris Evans, Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum and Christian Turner.

There are pieces around Milton that will ease the pressure on him. Michigan doesn’t need Milton to be mistake-free, but the Wolverines need him to elevate the offense against tougher competition on the schedule. They need him to solidify himself as a trustworthy and reliable passer to stop the quarterback carousel.

“I just like to credit [quarterbacks] Coach [Ben] McDaniels and Coach Harbaugh and those guys developing that position, because I’ll tell you it was scary a little bit for us, losing a quarterback, a starting quarterback,” Gattis said. “Going into the offseason, I really challenged [the quarterbacks] and said, ‘Hey, we need someone to step up and show us they can lead this team.’ And what we’ve seen so far from Cade [McNamara, a sophomore] and Joe, both those guys display a tremendous amount of talent to be able to lead this team at the quarterback position, and obviously both guys are playing really well.”


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A pair of unbeatens in the Group of 5 face off, plus what to expect in the Big Ten’s return



The biggest college football game on Saturday? It’s happening in Dallas between No. 9 Cincinnati and No. 16 SMU — two of the nine unbeaten teams left in the FBS.

If you’re eager for the Big Ten’s return, the Bearcats vs. the Mustangs may not be the game you’re most excited for. But these two ranked Group of 5 teams face an opportunity to add a résumé-building win in an attempt to accomplish the seemingly impossible: make the College Football Playoff.

We’re not getting ahead of ourselves here — even in a season when most conferences have started on their own time and are playing their own conference-specific schedules, a G5 team’s best effort might not make the committee bat an eye, but it’s fun to root for chaos.

SMU will be Cincinnati’s biggest test of the season since its 24-10 win over Army on Sept. 26. And while the Bearcats haven’t played since Oct. 3 (their Oct. 17 game at Tulsa was postponed due to COVID-19 cases within the Cincinnati program), they have been consistent in their three games so far.

Of note: their defense that is ranked 5th in SP+. That still “wins championships” right?

With SMU, we weren’t completely sure what to expect out of them. Sonny Dykes took over in 2018 (going 5-7 that season) and quickly turned things around with a 10-3 season in 2019.

Through five games this year, they’ve proven 2019 was no flash in the pan, and have presented themselves as a real challenger at the top of the conference. QB Shane Buechele is a big reason why, completing just under 67% of his passes for 1,710 yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

This game is a later start (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2) so you should make time for it. Even if you’re just casually flipping over for a drive or two. Keep that football palate diverse. You’ll thank us later.

SMU’s super fan keeps streak alive

For a while last Saturday, Paul Layne remained in his seat, watching his beloved SMU take on Tulane, the 525th straight Mustangs game he has attended. Then it dawned on him: Why not get up and move around? After all, he wouldn’t be blocking anyone’s view.

For 44 years, Layne has been a fixture in the stands — home and away — but last week’s game was unique. Tulane wasn’t allowing fans for the visiting team because of COVID-19 protocols, but Layne was able to pull a few strings and nab a ticket. That left him all alone, save a hundred or so cardboard cutouts. TV cameras trained on him, a perfect visual expression of college football in 2020, and suddenly Layne was a celebrity.

“My phone went dead from so many people texting,” Layne said.

It doesn’t hurt that there are a lot more eyes on SMU these days, too. The No. 16 Mustangs face off against No. 9 Cincinnati on Saturday, arguably the biggest game in three decades for the program. A top-25 ranking and marquee matchups have been a welcome return to glory after so many years of bad teams.

“For a long time, I didn’t know if I’d live long enough to do that again,” Layne said. “It’s a very exciting time now.”

Layne’s streak started when he was a freshman at SMU, serving as a cheerleader. He’s 66 now. Somewhere around Year 17, it finally dawned on him that perhaps the streak was something he should work to keep alive, and last week’s game wasn’t his first near-miss. In 1995, Layne came down with chicken pox. Fortunately for him, the game was on Halloween weekend. SMU was playing Rice, and the Owls weren’t bringing many fans, so Layne dressed as a scarecrow and took a seat in an empty section of the old Cotton Bowl typically reserved for visiting fans.

Keeping the streak alive during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a trickier proposition. SMU is allowing 25% capacity for its home games, including Saturday’s showdown against Cincinnati, but the road trips have been a tougher ticket. Layne said he booked his travel in May, though he was doubtful any games would even be played.

The next tough call comes Nov. 5 at Temple, where fans still aren’t allowed in the stadium. He’s planning to fly to Philadelphia anyway, and if he has to watch the game from outside the stadium, he’s confident he’ll find a view that will make the trip worth it.

“I couldn’t imagine being somewhere else on a Saturday afternoon or evening other than an SMU game,” Layne said. “I guess I’m kind of loyal. Or crazy.”

What else to watch

How many points does Clemson score against Syracuse?

It’s been a tough season for the Orange. Syracuse is 1-4, with one of the worst games in program history coming last week in a 38-21 loss to Liberty, which racked up over 300 yards in the first half alone. Their lone victory came against Georgia Tech, whom Clemson hung 73 on last week. With the way Syracuse has looked this season, there’s a non-zero chance that Clemson could do that again this week. If the Orange can prevent Clemson from having their punter play a whole series at quarterback, they will have done better than Georgia Tech.

Auburn‘s bad offense vs. Ole Miss‘s bad defense



Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t want the loss to effect this week’s preparation and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn is focused on less self-inflecting penalties.

Auburn’s offense has been hot and cold all season, and it’s been the latter more times than not. Ole Miss’ defense hasn’t shown any signs of being able to stop any offense, with their best performance (can you call it a performance?) coming against Arkansas, when it gave up 33 points. Auburn QB Bo Nix will probably be able to find WR Seth Williams for a big play or two, but as inconsistent as Auburn has been offensively, there is no reason Ole Miss can’t counter with a couple of big plays of their own.

Don’t sleep on Minnesota

In case you haven’t heard all week, Big Ten football is back this weekend. There’s — appropriately — a lot of talk about Ohio State and Justin Fields. But one team that isn’t being discussed enough, particularly in a wide-open Big Ten West, is Minnesota, who opens up against Michigan. Quarterback Tanner Morgan is coming off of a solid sophomore campaign in which he threw for 3,253 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven picks. Lucky for him, future first-round NFL draft pick wideout Rashod Bateman opted back in and has been cleared to play this season. Going up against Michigan will be a nice early test, and barometer for what we might be able to expect from the Gophers this season.

LSU‘s rebound attempt



LSU’s Ed Orgeron knows it will be a tough game against the Gamecocks as South Carolina’s Will Muschamp says it’s his job as a coach to keep his team dialed in weekly.

The Tigers need a win against South Carolina. Their Week 1 loss to Mississippi State didn’t seem awful at the time, especially since K.J. Costello threw for the most yards in any SEC game — ever. Since then, Costello was benched against Texas A&M, and the LSU defense gave up 45 points in a loss to Missouri. A game against South Carolina would usually be a nice and easy way to turn things around, but on top of their poor defensive play through three games, QB Myles Brennan may miss the game with a ‘significant’ lower-body injury. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said Monday he’s confident in either of their freshmen quarterbacks (TJ Finley or Max Johnson) to start, but there’s still plenty of concern in Baton Rouge.

Game Day Q&A with former Coastal Carolina head coach Joe Moglia

As the chairman of TD Ameritrade, Joe Moglia is helping shepherd through a deal with Charles Schwab that will end with the company having a market cap around $75 billion — and it also means he’ll be stepping down from his role. He’s done that before, though. In 2001, Moglia took a break from his job as CEO and got into coaching — a profession he’d left 20 years earlier — eventually becoming the head football coach at Coastal Carolina from 2011 through 2018. He’s written books on finance and football and is working on a new one on leadership, just as his Chanticleers have reached the top 25 for the first time in team history. We caught up with Moglia to talk Coastal Carolina, his former boss Bo Pelini, and the future of college football amid a COVID-19 financial crunch.

ESPN: What has it been like to see Coastal reach this level of success? Did you ever envision the program could be nationally ranked so soon after moving up to FBS?

Moglia: I couldn’t be prouder. You look at the staff, I recruited [head coach] Jamey [Chadwell]. I’ve always believed in him and thought he’d be a great successor and would do a great job of leading Coastal’s football team. … I really did envision we could become an elite FCS program. That prompted the Sun Belt to invite us. It takes a while to transition the scholarships and the transition with the coaching staff. … But I always thought we’d wind up being competitive. To beat a nationally ranked team, to be nationally ranked, to be undefeated at this point of the season — I definitely believed we could be competitive and hold our own.

ESPN: When you decided to get back into coaching, you spent two years working with Bo Pelini at Nebraska. He’s off to a rough start as the defensive coordinator at LSU now. Do you think he can get things fixed?

Moglia: I worked with Bo for two years as the executive advisor to the head football coach. Frankly, if I didn’t have that opportunity, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity at Coastal. He’s a good friend, a loyal guy, a very bright guy, and I’ll always be indebted to him for that. I really think that Bo is a tremendous defensive coordinator. He won a national championship at LSU before. Our defenses were always really good at Nebraska and he was the person behind that. I have no doubt they’ll figure it out and get done what they need to get done.

Player to watch

Lyles: Ohio State QB Justin Fields

I’m only kind of sorry I don’t have a deeper cut of an answer for you guys here this week, but I really, really want to see this guy play this weekend. Fields is one of the best players in the country, and I want to see how he comes out in the Buckeyes’ opener. Last season against Nebraska, he went 15-of-21 with 212 yards passing and three touchdowns, and added 72 yards and a TD on the ground. Don’t be surprised if he does better than that on Saturday.

Hale: Notre Dame QB Ian Book

The Irish are ranked No. 3 in the country, but their competition has accounted for just three FBS wins so far, and last week’s lackluster performance against Louisville offers cause for concern. More concerning is the struggles of the passing game. Book has just three completions of 20 yards or more to wide receivers this season. Meanwhile, Pitt’s defense can be dominant, and the Panthers’ secondary is more than capable of challenging the Irish receivers. Brian Kelly has made a point of saying he wants to get the passing game going, and this will be a good test for Book and Co. to see if they can improve on the unimpressive numbers thus far.

Under-the-radar game of the week

Lyles: Georgia Southern vs. Coastal Carolina



Massimo Biscardi’s 40-yard field goal is good, giving Coastal Carolina the 30-27 win.

It feels like the Sun Belt produces at least one game that you must keep your eye on each week, and for the second straight week, Coastal Carolina (now ranked No. 25 in the AP poll) is featured. Georgia Southern is 3-1 this season, with the lone loss to a ranked Louisiana team that just narrowly lost to Coastal last week. The intrigue in this game for me is mostly about answering this question, “How good is Coastal Carolina, actually?” Because while Southern might not be their toughest game to date, it’s still a good test.

Hale: Arkansas State at Appalachian State

The Sun Belt has arguably been the most fun conference in college football so far, with last week’s showdown between Arkansas State and Georgia State serving as Exhibit A, a 59-52 Red Wolves win. After the win, Arkansas State fired its defensive coordinator. Its offense, however, has been incredible, with its two-QB system of Logan Bonner and Layne Hatcher combining for more than 1,800 yards and 21 touchdowns so far. App State was the preseason favorite in the Sun Belt, but an early loss to Marshall was followed by two straight postponements due to COVID-19. How will Zac Thomas and company respond? It might start with getting the ground game going. That was the bread and butter of the Mountaineers’ attack in 2019, but the unit managed just 96 yards on 33 carries in the loss to Marshall.

Upset of the week

Lyles: TCU over Oklahoma

I don’t feel very confident with this pick, but if Oklahoma continues to be sloppy on defense, it can definitely happen. Both teams have won and lost the same number of games in the Big 12, a place I never thought we’d be at this point in the season. Of course, Spencer Rattler could make me look silly and pop off, which I wouldn’t be mad about.

Hale: South Carolina over LSU

The defense is a mess. The quarterback is hurt. The depth chart is depleted. LSU is reeling, and there’s a real concern it is going to be tough to turn things around in the short term. Meanwhile, South Carolina is riding high after a stunning upset of Auburn, and the Gamecocks’ offense, which has been a disaster during the bulk of Will Muschamp’s tenure, has shown some real explosiveness at times this season. It is always risky betting against a desperate LSU team at home, but there is a lot of ground the Tigers need to make up in a hurry if they want to win this one.


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How former NBA star Nate Robinson ended up boxing on Mike Tyson’s undercard



Nate Robinson’s alarm goes off before the sun rises. The NBA’s lone three-time Slam Dunk Contest champion rolls out of bed — no snooze button allowed — to get ready to train. The 36-year-old isn’t currently focused on returning to the basketball court but is instead pursuing a new endeavor that has him to the gym six days a week, twice a day.

At age 36, with no prior professional or amateur experience, Robinson is getting ready for his first boxing match. “It’s brutal. Waking up early, running six or seven miles, it’s something I’ve never done in my life and I’m doing it at 36, so it’s definitely making me feel young and energetic,” Robinson told ESPN. “It’s really tuning me in to another part of myself that I never knew I had.

“But I just want people to respect me as a person, as an athlete and as a boxer because I’m going through it,” he continued. “I’m not taking it easy and going through the motions. What they’ll see Nov. 28 is a Nate Robinson that really put in work to really get to this point, and I hope I surprise a lot of people because a lot of people think I’m gonna lose.”

Robinson will enter the ring that night for a six-round bout against famed YouTuber Jake Paul (1-0, 1 KO) on the undercard of Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr. Robinson’s camp started at the end of August and is expected to wrap almost a week and a half before the fight date. His team includes strength and conditioning coach Chris Denina — who typically works with Robinson in the mornings — and boxing trainer Francisco “Paco” Reyes of Tenochtitlan Boxing Club in Renton, Washington, who oversees the evening sessions.

“We’re really pushing him and molding him to be more of an endurance athlete. And Nate’s a very explosive athlete,” Denina said. “There’s certain things, which are nice, that I don’t really need to work on. It’s mainly just his conditioning and making him use his body in ways that he’s never really done on the basketball court.”

When the idea of training Robinson was originally presented to Reyes, his initial reaction wasn’t positive.

“Hell no,” Reyes said, not wanting his gym to become some sideshow for an ex-NBA player whom he didn’t know much about. Eventually he was persuaded.

“I realized that he was serious about it when he came back after that first sparring session,” Reyes said. “Not a lot of people come back after the first sparring session, but he came back, he wanted more, he wanted to keep going, and that really got my interest. A lot of people will come and spar and are like, ‘Oh, no, I’m good,’ but not Nate. He has the heart.”

At 5-foot-9 and less than 200 pounds throughout his NBA career, Robinson developed a reputation for toughness and athleticism. In high school, he excelled in track and football, as well as basketball. At the University of Washington, he also starred on the gridiron and hardwood before deciding to focus solely on basketball. But boxing is something completely different, especially experiencing it for the first time at his age.

“It’s been a challenge learning how to breathe and fight while you’re tired,” Robinson said. “That’s been the fun part. Like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the mouth,’ and then you have to figure it out. I never understood that until I actually got in the ring for the first time with sparring, and I knew exactly what he meant.”

Since his last stretch in the NBA in 2015-16, on a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans, Robinson played basketball in the BIG3, the NBA Developmental League (now the G League), the Israeli Basketball Premier League and the Liga Profesional de Baloncesto in Venezuela. He also signed to play in Lebanon in 2018, before an injury scuttled those plans.

Off the court, Robinson appeared in the 2018 film “Uncle Drew” with Kyrie Irving, tried out with the Seattle Seahawks in 2016 and collaborated with former NBA player Carlos Boozer to launch the HOLDAT clothing brand.

These other pursuits have kept him busy, but the idea of entering the ring started over a year ago, when Robinson’s manager, Napoleon “Polo” Kerber, met Paul at an event. As he continued his search for new challenges post-basketball, Robinson agreed to fight Paul despite no professional experience.

What Robinson does carry into his fight is a longtime appreciation for the sport.

“I’ve been a fan of boxing my whole life. Me and my brother, we used to slap box and use boxing gloves in the backyard with my dad. So, it’s nothing new, it’s just real business now,” Robinson said. “I’ve played in front of thousands of people my whole life hooping, so just being able to step into a realm that I’ve never been in before is challenging for me, but it’s also fun to try to see how far I really can go with this.”

Robinson’s father, Jacque Robinson, was a legendary athlete at Washington, who entered the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame after being named MVP of the game in 1982 as a freshman. He also enjoyed a brief NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987.

Jacque introduced his son to boxing through Muhammad Ali and, a bit coincidentally since he’s fighting on his undercard, Tyson. Growing up, if you stayed at Robinson’s home for a sleepover or just for fun, somehow the gloves would get pulled out as a teacher of life. Nate’s brother, Anthony “Chicken” Stewart — who also was a running back at Central Washington University — also wasn’t afraid to get busy, either.

“We had a heavy bag in our backyard. We had weights and we had boxing gloves and my dad was like, ‘At least y’all are going to know how to fight and y’all will know how to take care of each other,'” Nate recalled. “So my dad was like, ‘If you’ve got some homies that are coming around you, and guys are being around y’all and something happens, and they run or they’re not trying to fight or protect the crew, then y’all don’t need to hang around them.'”

Robinson got into a handful of fights over the years in middle school in high school, but that was the extent to which he used his backyard boxing experiences. Until now. These days he’s receiving advice from Floyd Mayweather Jr. via FaceTime, and although he couldn’t make it, was invited to train with welterweight champion Terence Crawford.

Robinson spent 11 seasons in the NBA, and hasn’t ruled out an NBA return if there’s an opportunity.

“I do. If it’s possible,” Robinson said. “I just want the chance to show a team, even at 36, I could still play and still ball out, still be a good spark off the bench. But times have changed, the NBA has changed so much. Naw, I will never say I’m retired. They retired me. I didn’t retire.

“Of course I would love to hoop,” Robinson added. “I would love to be able to finish my career playing the game I love and showing them that I really could still ball and be effective. Even if it’s five minutes, 10 minutes, just being there helping out with whatever they need. Whatever they need me to do, I’m there. That’s what I’m here for.”

Whether or not he plays another minute in the NBA, Robinson’s connections to the league are still deep. Fellow Washington native Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls has gotten to know Robinson over the years, and has watched the transformation of Robinson’s body into a boxer. He will be tuned in to the bout.

“He is a supreme athlete. Realistically, he was one of UW’s best cornerbacks and probably could’ve been an NFL cornerback. Obviously, you know how good he was in the NBA, and right now he’s in the best shape of his life. The dude is built like a fire hydrant,” LaVine said. “I mean, like, he is stacked, so whatever he puts his mind to, I know he can get it done.

“Boxing is a whole different world, so he’s been training for the last eight or nine months,” LaVine continued. “He’s transformed his body into looking like a real boxer, too, so I don’t think anybody’s gonna be stepping to him in Seattle anytime soon.”

Outperforming expectations has become Robinson’s calling card, and that boils down to his determination and effort in everything he pursues.

“I hope I surprise a lot of people, because a lot of people think I’m gonna lose,” Robinson said. “They don’t believe in me and that’s cool. I told them, ‘S—, people didn’t believe I could make it to the NBA. People didn’t believe I’d be able to score 40 points in a game, to average 18 as a 5-foot-9 point guard playing with the Knicks. Nobody thought I was going to win three dunk contests.’

“People have been putting me behind the eight ball my whole life, but it’s something that I’m used to. I’ve been the underdog forever, and it’s just going to be sweet to know that so many people didn’t believe in me and I get a chance to show them again.”


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