Chiefs cornerback Dunta Robinson thought the missed calls and texts on his phone after the season-opening win at Jacksonville were messages of congratulations.
Instead, they were bearers of tragic news.
Earlier on that Sunday morning, Robinson’s first cousin, Dwan Robinson, stepped out of her car and was struck by an oncoming vehicle in Athens, Ga. — 360 miles from Jacksonville, Fla., where Robinson would make his Chiefs debut.
Dwan Robinson, 35, was rushed to Athens Regional Medical Center because of massive injuries, including head trauma and a broken pelvis, and has been in a coma and hooked to a ventilator ever since, said Robinson.
“This wasn’t like a distant cousin,” Robinson said before the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. “We grew up together this was basically my sister. She would text me and tell me good luck before games.”
But there would be no pregame text on Sept. 8. Though the incident happened at 2:38 a.m., Robinson’s family waited until after the Chiefs’ game that day before calling.
“I was upset they didn’t call before but I understood,” Robinson said. “They said they wanted me to focus on the game. But they didn’t tell me how severe it was.”
Three days later, when the Chiefs began preparations for the home opener against Dallas, the family left more messages on Robinson’s cell phone at the Chiefs’ practice facility.
“They called back because they weren’t sure if she was going to live,” Robinson said. “They said, ‘You might need to get home.’ I knew for a short period of time, I had to put football behind me and had to be there for the family.”
The Chiefs excused Robinson, and he missed the week of the Dallas game before returning to Kansas City the day after the Chiefs beat the Cowboys. There was little Robinson, 31, could do for his cousin, but he was there for her two sons, one who is an 18-year-old senior in high school, and the other who is 12.
“I tried to hold the family together,” said Robinson, a 10-year veteran in his first year with the Chiefs. “That’s been my role for years. It was a long week, we did a lot of praying, we held close as a family. That’s all we can do, stay prayerful and hope for the best.
“Everyone is waiting on her to wake up. It’s a real struggle, but she’s a Robinson, and she’s a fighter, and she’s fighting for her life right now. “
Preparing, practicing and playing in the game at Philadelphia last week provided an escape for Robinson, even for a few hours a day.
“It’s a good thing to get back doing what I love, and that’s playing football,” Robinson. “Being on the football field takes you away from everything.”
Robinson and his family are still trying to piece together exactly what happened.
According to a police report, Dwan Robinson was attempting to get into her car, which she had stopped in the center turn lane. She had attempted to retrieve a cell phone that had fallen out of the window.
The driver of the other car said she did not see Robinson until she struck her. Both drivers were tested for blood-alcohol levels, and the results are pending.
“She was leaving a party ” Dunta Robinson said. “All I knew, she was crossing the street, I didn’t know what for she was with a childhood friend a next-door neighbor. I hadn’t heard that part about the cell phone.”
Although Robinson is the Chiefs’ oldest player, he’s had to lean on his younger teammates for support, much the way he’s been there for his family.
“The guys in the locker room have been great,” Robinson said. “It’s a brotherhood. They’ve given me encouragement and have been uplifting.”
Strong safety Eric Berry, who is a fellow Georgian and lockers next to Robinson, has tried to be a source of strength.
“A lot of people forget at the end of the day, even though we’re athletes and all, but we’re still regular people who have families and people back home, but we happen to play ball,” Berry said. “If you need someone to lean on, we’ve got to be there to help.”
Dunta Robinson’s family may soon be facing the biggest decision of all. If Dwan doesn’t show signs of coming out of the coma, how long do they keep her alive on the ventilator?
“Different family members see it different ways,” Robinson said. “Every day, they say she’s not improving, but not getting any worse. One bad thing was she was running a 102 fever one day.
“For those two youngsters you hate this. But at the end of the day, it’s God’s will. What’s best is going to be done.”