As a child, Corey Robinson dreamed of participating in the Olympics just like his dad, David Robinson, who won two gold medals as part of US basketball teams. David’s last Olympics appearance occurred in 1996 when Corey was 19 months old, so Corey has no recollection of that moment. Still, David would tell Corey and his two other sons about competing in the Olympics, and the family would always watch the Games on television.
Now, Corey has fulfilled his dream of being at an Olympics, albeit in a role he didn’t envision in his younger days. Since late last month, he has been in China serving as the reporter for NBC’s coverage of curling, a niche sport that has a cult following every four years when the Olympics come around. In fact, this is Robinson’s second appearance working for NBC at the Olympics, having served as a reporter at the 2021 Summer Games in Tokyo.
“I’ve always wanted to be here,” Robinson said. “As a kid who grew up loving the Olympics, that was the pinnacle of sports.”
By his teenage years, Robinson realized he wasn’t going to be an Olympian because the sport he played, football, isn’t part of the Games. But the 6-foot-4 receiver did hope to one day play in the NFL, a goal that seemed within reach as he enrolled at Notre Dame in 2013 and made an impact with the Fighting Irish.
As a sophomore in 2014, Robinson was second on the team with 40 receptions and five touchdown catches and was a first-team Academic All-American. His statistics weren’t as gaudy the next year (16 catches and 200 yards) as he sustained multiple injuries. Still, Robinson was projected as an NFL draft pick. But in June 2016, a few months after sustaining his third concussion in the past year, Robinson announced he would retire from football.
That fall, Robinson was a student assistant coach for the Fighting Irish. At the same time, he was staying busy in his role as the student body president, an election he won in February 2016, becoming what is believed to be the first Notre Dame football player and second African-American student to serve as student body president .
Robinson had also co-founded One Shirt One Body, a non-profit organization that donated University-issued apparel that athletes had worn to the Center for the Homeless in South Bend, Ind., just off campus. He was a popular figure on campus and beyond.
“He’s either going to cure cancer, solve world hunger or become president,” Austin Webster, Robinson’s Notre Dame teammate, told Notre Dame’s athletics website in April 2017.
During his senior year, Robinson seriously considered enrolling in the Alliance for Catholic Education program, in which Notre Dame graduates serve as teachers at Catholic schools in areas of need throughout the United States. Instead, after graduating with a Program of Liberal Studies major and sustainability minor, Robinson accepted a coveted internship at the Gagosian art gallery in New York City. He later worked in full-time roles in business development and e-commerce at the Sotheby’s auction house.
In January 2020, Robinson switched careers when NBC Sports hired him as a reporter and digital correspondent. Robinson had never worked in the media industry, but he had known some NBC employees and made an impression as an articulate and smart person during his playing days at Notre Dame.
“Corey’s experience on the field and as the Notre Dame student body president demonstrated his leadership and ability to connect with people,” Sam Flood, the executive producer and president of production at NBC Sports, said in a news release at the time. “We look forward to helping him grow and develop as a host, reporter and contributor across our portfolio.”
Since joining NBC just about two years ago, Robinson has had a variety of roles. Besides his Olympics assignments, he’s worked as a co-host for the Notre Dame football pregame show on the network’s Peacock streaming services, analyst for Atlantic 10 basketball games, sideline reporter for the Premier Lacrosse League and reporter for USA Track & Field events. He also hosts “One Team: The Power of Sports,” a show aimed at 13- to 16-year olds that streams on NBC’s website and app.
“It’s whatever they ask me to do,” Robinson said. “I show up on set, study, have a great attitude and be passionate and invite people to wonder.”
He added: “I’ve always been a huge fan of what NBC’s done. The chance to work on the properties has just been mind-blowing, quite frankly. Every day I pinch myself.”
The mix of assignments fits in well with Robinson, a curious sort who likes learning new things. For instance, he didn’t know much at all about curling until attending the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb., in November. But now, he’s immersed in the sport. At the Olympics, he arrives at the venue at 8 am and doesn’t get home until 11 pm most days. He’s spent most of the past four months reading about curling, watching games and asking questions of athletes and coaches.
“I kind of think about it a lot like being a student at a University, where you’re sitting there and your teachers happen to be Olympians,” Robinson said. “It’s like a master class.”
The men’s and women’s gold medal curling games are on Saturday, after which Robinson will fly back home to New York. He’s not sure what his schedule will look like in the next few months, but he expects to be busy with a number of roles.
Robinson claims he doesn’t give thought to what his life would be like if he had not sustained the concussions and became an NFL player. Instead, he says he’s grateful for all he’s been able to do and accomplish, which was encapsulated when he walked around Notre Dame’s campus last fall.
“I just couldn’t believe it, the fact that I got to play football at Notre Dame and then got to be an assistant coach there on the sideline my last year,” Robinson said. “Now I get to cover the team? It’s almost like every facet of Notre Dame football, I’ve been able to experience.”
He added: “From my perspective, it’s not about what if? It’s just about appreciating what you’ve been able to experience and just saying thank you. I just can’t say thank you enough. To know Notre Dame that intimately and see it from those different perspectives, it’s amazing to me.”