It is said that the game of football can bring people together — to the point where a team feels more like a family than anything else.
The Portsmouth Stealth semi-pro football organization is the perfect example of that fact.
Just ask Cleveland native Datoine Robinson. He’s more than happy to express what makes the Portsmouth Stealth such a great organization.
“Honestly, it’s great,” Robinson said. “It’s a big family atmosphere. Great talent. The owners treat us more like family. The coaches know what to do to prepare us for the game at hand. But the biggest draw, for me, is what we do in the community.
And it’s that quality time in the Portsmouth community, Robinson says, is what makes playing for the Stealth — and the resulting brotherhood that he has formulated with his teammates — so special.
“We spend a lot of time at the 14th Street Community Center with the children, and we recently gave away Christmas toys at the center,” Robinson said. “One of our players, Jeff McMahon, dressed up as Santa. We’ve adopted Bannon Park and our owner goes around collecting trash. Then, we have autism awareness games where we collect donations for autism. We will be trying to hold an event where we can wash cars for the elderly for free pretty soon.”
For Portsmouth Stealth PR representative Laci Long, it’s all part of the experience that the football program hopes to provide.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere to be around,” Long said. “I love my team, and we are more than just a team, we are family. That’s hard to find and takes years to build. We strive on making the community better for the youth in the area and give everyone the chance to show their talents and true potentials. This is a great group of guys with a lot of talent and chemistry. If we can keep guys off the streets and in football gear, we know that we are doing something positive, giving the kids in our area something positive to look forward to, and showing them that Portsmouth has potential to be an outstanding community.”
Robinson, who is a 5-9, 225-pound quarterback and running back for the Stealth, has experience playing for excellent programs. At Cleveland Glenville High School, he played under legendary high school coach Ted Ginn, Sr. the father of Ohio State star and New Orleans Saints star Ted Ginn, Jr.
In addition to Ginn, Jr., Cardale Jones, Troy Smith, and Donte Whitner all went on to have successful college and pro football careers, and Marshon Lattimore — New Orleans’ first-round draft choice in the 2017 NFL Draft — also hails from the school.
However, despite learning under one of the best football coaches in the country, and despite playing alongside Division I talent in every season of his high school career at Glenville, the small-town feel of Portsmouth is as attractive of a feature to Robinson as anything that he’s ever experienced in his life.
“Well, I moved (to Portsmouth) from Cleveland in 2012 and honestly, I love it here,” Robinson said. “I like the small paced, small town feel. It’s completely different than a big city. I have met some of the nicest, most genuine people here. The southern hospitality, such as when you are walking down the street and a complete stranger says hello to you, is really special. You don’t get that in Cleveland.”
However, it was a chance that Robinson almost didn’t have — until Minford High School graduate Kyle Shonkwiler approached Robinson about playing with the Southern Ohio Spartans.
And even though the Spartans and the Portsmouth Warriors eventually ended up merging to become the Stealth, it didn’t take away the joy that Robinson had in representing the program — especially when one considers the friends that Robinson has made through the entire experience, which include West Portsmouth’s Alec Meeker, Portsmouth’s Duke Edwards and Mike Furnier, and Ironton’s Kraig Littlejohn.
“I have played for the same owners ever since,” Robinson said. “Joseph Parker, Dusti Morgan, and new part owner Emily Owens run the most honest and family oriented team, and it makes the game more enjoyable. We’re counted out every year, but we always find a way to make a push every year. I have made lifelong friends on this team. Laci Owens, and her brothers, Matt and Mark, helped me and my wife get married. I have had Duke come over and cook. I have spent late nights at Taco Bell with Alec and have become brothers with Mike and Kraig. It’s all amazing to me. And the community support is unreal. I have been blessed.”
However, make no mistake about it — Robinson and his teammates are shooting for the stars. With an explosive unit that features Portsmouth native Darion Robinson and Chillicothe’s own Markel Caine, there’s little doubt that the Portsmouth Stealth will be right in the thick of the hunt.
“Man, we have a lot of talent here for the first time,” Robinson said. “We have an offensive line that is really deep and really good, but what I’m most excited to see is how our defense performs. With the few additions that we have added on that side of the ball with Heath Tackett, Darion Robinson, Markel Caine, and others, we’re gonna shut some teams down. Honestly, this team is equipped to win the whole league. We have what it takes, I believe.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7