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10 as one: Stevenson community preserves the memory of Callum Robinson

Stevenson men’s lacrosse team rallies together after the passing of 2013 NCAA national champion Callum Robinson
Callum+Robinson+%2810%29+and+Parker+Bratton+%285%29+huddle+with+the+mens+lacrosse+team.+When+I+think+back%2C+I%E2%80%99m+very+proud+and+lucky+to+have+been+his+teammate+and+to+have+been+his+friend.+Those+memories+will+always+stick+with+me%2C+Bratton+said.
Parker Bratton
Callum Robinson (10) and Parker Bratton (5) huddle with the men’s lacrosse team. “When I think back, I’m very proud and lucky to have been his teammate and to have been his friend. Those memories will always stick with me,” Bratton said.

The turf glistened under the stadium lights as Stevenson’s men’s lacrosse players dominated Eastern University, eye black smeared across their cheeks and jerseys matted to their skin in sweat. The buzzer went off, and the crowd roared as the 2024 Middle Atlantic Conference Commonwealth champions were announced after a breezy 21-3 victory.

In a flash of white and green, Stevenson’s men’s lacrosse team flooded the field, hearts on their helmets, where each player had written, “CR10.”

It was an overwhelming moment for the team, as they celebrated their victory, while remembering the significance of “CR10,” which stands for Callum Robinson, a former player for the men’s lacrosse team, who lost his life a month ago on a lonely stretch of Baja California beach, where avid surfer Robinson, his brother and a friend had gone to chase waves. Mexican authorities say that the trio were killed by locals who wanted to steal tires and other equipment from the men’s truck.

Their bodies were later recovered from an abandoned well on May 3.

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Robinson wore No. 10 on his green and white Mustang jersey when he played defense for Stevenson, causing chaos on the field. In 2013, Robinson’s second season with the Mustangs, Stevenson won the NCAA Division III national championship.

Today, SU players and coaches still try to make sense of Robinson’s tragic death.

“You play with 10 guys on the lacrosse field. My hope would be that we retire his number, and we use that symbolism of 10 being one, using his memory and kind of cementing it,” assistant coach Parker Bratton said.

Robinson was a powerful force on the field. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound defender played with a passionate drive that was sometimes overwhelming.

“He definitely had a big presence on the field,” Bratton said. “He was one of those big athletes that maybe didn’t know how big he was. I think referees didn’t really know how to referee him, because he would do things that seem kind of normal, but because we’re playing a lot of other DIII-level athletes, he would just go out there and play his hardest, and sometimes that would look like a penalty. A lot of times, I don’t think our team agreed with that.”

Having just arrived to the U.S. in 2013, some concepts of American lacrosse were foreign to the Australian-born.

“The first or second time he got on the field, he didn’t even know the rules. Like ‘no, you can’t hit someone who’s on the ground, you gotta wear arm pads. He didn’t wanna do any of those things,” head men’s lacrosse coach Paul Cantabene said.

Robinson had a strong-willed personality, but his stubbornness only added to his charm.

“I’d say I was a more of a sound defenseman, as opposed to one that would fly around everywhere and try to take the ball, which is what he would do, and so I don’t think he understood, we don’t always need to go and try to take the ball against some of the better players,” Bratton said. “So at first, I really tried hard to rein him back in and have him play a more fundamental defense. But at a certain point, you realize that it’s just going in one ear and out the other.”

Even when he wasn’t playing lacrosse, Robinson had a large presence that would fill a room when he walked in.

“Callum was like a superhero when you first met him, he was so big and strong, big flowing black hair and a huge smile. But at the same time, he had a real gentle aura to him, so people kind of gravitated to him. So once you’re friends with Callum, you’re friends with him for life,” Cantabene said.

Bratton was close friends with Robinson throughout college, and long afterwards. They even had nicknames for one another.

“I’m 6-1, 210 [pounds], and I look tiny. I’d always call him Biggins, and he’d always call me Smalls or Small Fry. So he would always purposefully hug me way too hard, trying to pick me up and squeeze the life out of me. I’ll never be able to forget the sound of Smalls and Small Fry coming out of his mouth,” Bratton said.

Despite Bratton being a senior and Robinson a sophomore when they played together in 2013, the duo were only 10 days apart in age. (Parker Bratton)

After graduating, Bratton and Robinson maintained their friendship, attending the same yoga classes and going out on occasion. In addition to his bear hugs, Bratton remembers many of Robinson’s endearing quirks.

“With him, I’m pretty slow when it comes to getting out of the door, but I think he might be the only other person that’s slower than I am when it comes to getting ready… his hair and all his different things. I love that about him because it gave me a little time to breathe,” Bratton said.

Robinson’s influence on the team can be seen in subtle, but profound ways. His memory will continue to live on through their stories and traditions.

“There’s a call in lacrosse where you say ‘over’ to tell the person with the ball to throw it to the other side of the field,” Bratton said. “I came back, and we would do a drill where one of the coaches would say it with his bad Australian accent, and it’s almost like he didn’t really realize he was doing it until Callum passed. But it was one of those things that came from Callum, and it’s something that I’m sure he’ll be saying every time he thinks about him”

When the team scored its 10th goal against Messiah University during the MAC semifinals, they immediately remembered Robinson with the chant, “Aussie aussie aussie, oi oi oi.” They took down Messiah shortly after 26-19.

“He definitely was looking down over us and making sure that we brought that one home. Hopefully another tradition that we might have to keep going, passing down year to year, making sure that when we score ten goals, we remember the big guy,” Bratton said.

Even after his passing, Robinson continues to bring people together. Like Bratton, Peter Greene, Hall of Famer and captain of the 2013 team, was also good friends with Robinson.

“He’s someone that I’ve lived with, and we didn’t always see eye to eye. But winning the championship and giving the hug that we shared afterwards… it was really emotional. Having all that happen, It’s something that’ll change our relationships forever; I know that,” Bratton said.

Despite not having a personal relationship with Robinson, the team played with him in their hearts, propelling them to their first MAC championship in five years.

“I remember in the huddle of our first game after Callum had passed, Captain Scaliti made it clear and evident that it was more than a game and that everything we do was for Callum. You never know when your last time to play this great game could be, and that really shifted a lot of mentalities and attitudes, and it showed on the field and in the locker room,” senior defender Justin Coates said.

Bratton was touched by the players’ passion and support. Regardless of the outcome of the games, the team became a family.

“As a coach, it means the world to see a bunch of guys that didn’t know him represent the program and give their all for us,” Bratton said. “As difficult as it’s been, It’s been really special to be able to look into 60 guys’ eyes and see that they have this fire for you and for your friend and teammate and brother that passed away.”

After the bittersweet victory, many alumni, including Bratton, spent time mourning together.

“That was really special as well, just to be there for everyone. There were a lot of guys that are now like in their 30s, getting gray with kids; they turned into a lot of sad boys. We were a bunch of sad boys. To have each other there, to give each other hugs, and to tell each other that we love each other and that everything’s gonna be okay. It was definitely what I needed,” Bratton said.

The last time Cantabene saw Robinson was in October, when the men’s lacrosse 2013 national championship team was honored at the Dick Watts Athletics Hall of Fame Induction.

If I knew I wasn’t gonna see him again, I would have given him a little hug a little longer.

— Cantabene

Robinson’s infectious personality and strong spirit has left a lasting impact in not only the lives of the people who knew him, but of those who hear the stories of the Australian legend.

“I will most certainly make it a point to tell my 2 year old son about how great of a person he was to other people, and that you can’t always expect that in return. But you can always attack life with a positive attitude and live every day, and play every play like it’s your last one,” Bratton said.

Through their coaches and the overwhelming support of the community, the men’s lacrosse players have felt the eminent love for Robinson, No. 10 knitting them all together as one.

“To 10, you will always be remembered and the men of Stevenson will continue to keep your legacy thriving forever,” Coates said.

Contributions by Ava Treakle

This story was originally published on Stevenson Villager on May 24, 2024.