UW Men's Basketball
The new Dawgfather
Being a father is a job description Nate Robinson appears to embrace just as readily as all the others he has carried.
Seattle Times staff reporter
In the din of Oregon's McArthur Court last Thursday, a minute or so before tipoff, Washington guard Nate Robinson jogged to the sideline and greeted a 4-month-old baby with a kiss and a hug before returning to the court.
"Just to let him know his daddy is going to play hard," Robinson said.
It's a job description Robinson appears to embrace just as readily as all the others he has carried — high-school hoops legend, two-sport college phenom, leader of the UW basketball revival. "It's exciting; it's fun," Robinson said of fatherhood. "It's like, now I have something to work 10 times harder for, and that's to provide for my son."
This isn't really a story, however, about how having a child has helped a well-known athlete put everything in perspective. Robinson resists that easy answer when asked such a question.
Instead, he views the arrival of Nahmier Caillou Robinson last Oct. 26 as a natural next step in his own life.
UW men at WSU, 4 p.m., FSN
He carries with him everywhere a picture phone filled with photos of his son to look at during road trips, and often wears a necklace engraved with Nahmier's portrait.
"I wouldn't trade (being a father) for the world," he said.
Robinson and Nahmier's mother, Sheena Felitz — who have known each other since high school — aren't married and have no plans to wed. The status of their current relationship is left somewhat vague by each.
But Robinson, long acknowledged as one of the hardest workers on the Huskies team, has by all accounts thrown himself into his new fatherhood role with equal vigor. His pride in Nahmier is evident as he talks.
"He's a good dad," said Felitz, adding that Robinson even enjoys changing diapers. "He does his share."
He had understandable initial trepidation, however, about the impending change in his life.
"It was like, this is big time for me," Robinson said. "Like, all right, now I have to handle the responsibility and be there for my son and accept that father role."
Robinson, though, had an inkling of what lay ahead, having grown up as the oldest of eight brothers and sisters. His father is former UW running back Jacque Robinson. Nate was born the spring before his father's senior season at Washington in 1984.
"I was like 11, 12 years old, changing my little sister's diapers," Robinson said. "It just came natural. I just love children, period."
Loves them so much, in fact, that he said he not only hopes to have a few more someday, but adopt a couple as well.
"There are so many kids out there who don't have anything at all and need someone to love them," he said.
He watched Nahmier's birth with UW coach Lorenzo Romar by his side, cutting the umbilical cord himself.
He said he hasn't told Romar how much the coach's presence that day meant to him.
"I can always tell my son that coach Romar was there when you were born," he said. "I just think that's one of the greatest things to happen in my life."
He later took Nahmier — whose name is simply one that mother and father like and has nothing to do with Robinson's friendship with Jameer Nelson despite some reports to the contrary — to practice and said he considers his fellow Huskies "a team full of uncles."
"They all call him 'Little Mir Mir,' " Robinson said.
When Robinson began slumping a bit in December, it was easy to wonder if fatherhood wasn't providing a distraction.
"There are times I'm sure it has," Romar said. "You've got school, basketball and now a child. It can have an effect. But I think he's handled it pretty well."
Robinson, however, said he thinks his son has been solely a positive influence on his play this season.
"Believe it or not, it's only made me more focused," he said. "Me having a son has gotten my attention so where if I'm slacking, I know I have to straighten myself out and work hard. If I ever forget where I came from, I take a look at my son and realize how I have to work harder."
It's also easy to wonder if having a child will make Robinson that much more willing to give up his senior year of college for a shot at the NBA.
Robinson said having Nahmier "has a little bit" entered his thinking about his future "because I know I want a better life for me and my family and my son."
Robinson knew about the impending birth last spring when he first wrestled with that decision, and most around the UW figure he's likely to leave this year regardless.
Nahmier spends much of his time with Felitz, 20, who lives in West Seattle. After working until the final days of her pregnancy to save money, she is a stay-at-home mom for now. Nahmier also often spends the night with Robinson, 20, and his mother.
Robinson tries to watch the cartoon show that gave his son his middle name — "Caillou," a favorite — with Nahmier at 9 a.m. before heading to class. He jokes about Nahmier's thumb-sucking, glows in telling how Nahmier can already sit up on his own and sounds like a seasoned pro when talking about tricks to get Nahmier to go to sleep when he turns fussy.
"Just put him in a car and drive around and he will fall fast asleep," Robinson said.
Robinson has also learned, though, that babies can often sleep anywhere. He said he glanced at Nahmier from the free-throw line during the Oregon game and caught him somehow napping despite the raucous surroundings.
"I was like, 'Somebody wake him up,' " he said.
The Oregon trip was Nahmier's first, but Robinson said he hopes his son will now be able to travel everywhere the Huskies go.
Felitz said that wherever basketball takes Robinson in the future, she's sure he will want Nahmier close by.
"When I heard him cry (in the hospital), it was like, 'That's my boy now,' " said Robinson. "Now I can teach him all the things I wanted my dad to teach me, do all the family things I did with my mom and my dad.
"When he comes home with bad grades, I'm the one who can give him the pep talk. But I want him to avoid that. I want him to be a great student, a great person, a great kid and have fun growing up so that when he's 18 years old, he can take care of himself."
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org