The Times West Virginian

September 19, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Robinson takes hard road to HOF

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — This time the phone call was a welcome one for Maurice “Mo” Robinson, a call that brought a smile to his face instead of a tear to his eye.

The voice on the other end was informing him he had been selected to the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame, the induction ceremonies for the 22nd class being at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Caperton Indoor Facility before WVU’s football game with Maryland.

Twice before he’d picked up that phone, only to learn that his son, Marlan, had been severely injured, moments with which no parent ever should have to deal.

The first time was a serious car accident, the second when he was a victim in a senseless shooting that had him clinging to life even as his father received the word.

“It’s a neat thing in the timing of it,” Mo Robinson said of the Hall of Fame call as he sat in the tiny cubicle that serves as an office at the CVS in Sabraton, where he is store manager. “We’re just getting past this, and we’re looking forward to doing some other things. It helps for everybody. Not just me, but my wife. She’s so excited.”

Robinson’s life had been a wonderful one. He was a teammate of Bob Huggins in the mid-1970s, one of best big men to play at WVU after coming out of Welch High as one of the nation’s top prep prospects.

At WVU he had been known as the “Director of Dunk” as a junior and the “Center of Attention” as a senior, but he was more than a good basketball player. He was a good man, a model citizen and a great family man who, with his wife, Roselle, had raised two sons, Marcel and Marlan, and a daughter, Matine.

He had devoted his life to his family, Marlan looking as though he would be able to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“We put in a lot of work getting him prepared to take that next step,” Robinson explained. “From the time he was in the second grade I was grooming him. We traveled to Charleston quite a bit, three times a week. He played on a team in Huntington, so we went there a lot.”

Then one night the world changed, Marlan Robinson being involved a car accident, and the injuries were serious.

“He got burned. The car flipped over on him. The catalytic converter came down on the left side of his head and his shoulder. He was burned down to his skull and down to the bone in the left shoulder. Even the bone was burned,” Robinson recalled.

This was no broken arm or concussion.

“It was a long, long, long process. We took him up to UPMC, and the doctors were outstanding,” Robinson said. “We were up there for five months. We used all our vacation time and everything. We stayed with him, and he was having surgeries every day … every day,” he said, his voice trailing off.

Marlan Robinson did the best he could to deal with life in the aftermath of the accident. He finished his college degree and was moving forward.

“It didn’t set him back much; just his hopes and our hopes of him playing D-I basketball were shattered,” Robinson said.

Life became more normal until there was another late-night phone call.

“I had worked that day. I got home about 10:30. My cellphone rang and it was a policeman. I don’t even know where he got my telephone number from, but he said, ‘Your son has been shot.’ Something like that just takes you back,” Robinson said.

“I went downstairs and said, ‘Rose, Rose … Marlan has been shot.’ And she said, ‘What?’ I mean, it’s unbelievable your son can be shot in Morgantown.”

He’d been out doing a favor for a friend when two teens shot him, once in the back, once in the hand, once in the arm. Police had found him lying on the ground at around 9:15 p.m. in a parking lot off 1st Street between Hall Street and Beechurst Avenue in Morgantown.

“He lost his spleen. He tore up his small intestines,” Robinson said.

That night they prayed at the university hospital.

“We didn’t think he was going to make it. The doctor didn’t think he was going to make it. Thanks to the trauma unit at the university, they saved his life. It was very much touch and go,” Robinson said, thinking back to that night.

“Initially, we couldn’t even see him. There was a priest there going in and out; he was keeping us informed what was going on. He was telling us he was still alive and they were still working on him.”

And they worked and worked. Marlan Robinson was hospitalized from April 2010, until November 2010.

“There were surgeries; we were going back and forth to the hospital. … It takes a lot out of you,” Robinson said.

There are so many emotions at the moment, first shock, then anger.

“You want to find a way to get back, but you get over that. That’s not the most important thing at that moment,” he said. “But you never forget that, either. Initially you just want to go out and find them and give them payback.”

The trial was difficult to take, but the Robinsons were there for it.

Judge Russell Clawges sentenced Rodruss Clay and Aaron Henry to two to 10 years for malicious assault and five years for wanton endangerment after that.

Marlan Robinson is trying to put his life back together again.

“Emotionally, he’s struggling. We were hoping he would get some counseling, but he doesn’t feel he needs any. He’s going to be OK,” Robinson said. “He’s limited in his arm; the ulna nerve got mashed. His fingers are clenched, but he can deal with that.

“He’s been blessed twice. The Lord spared him twice. An eighth of an inch in either direction and he’s dead.”

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow on Twitter @bhertzel.