CSU-Pueblo sophomore survives crash, returns to court after learning to walk again
Inside Aubrey Robinson’s 15-month journey
PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - Sitting in a hospital bed gives you a lot of time to think.
Facing months, perhaps years of rehab, nobody would have blamed Aubrey Robinson for giving up.
“I was second guessing if playing at the higher level was even for me,” Robinson explained. “But I know I stayed on earth for a reason.”
Growing up on the east side of Colorado Springs, Robinson was fleet of foot with a smooth shot. Her basketball prowess turned heads at Harrison High School, then Sierra High School.
“We ended up going to the playoffs both years,” Robinson said, thinking back on her high school days as a Stallion. “ I was able to take my career to the next level.”
“With our success came scouts, and news reporters wanting to come and put me in the newspaper. It definitely took me out of my comfort zone,” Robinson recalled, laughing.
A Gazette Preps Peak Performer, Robinson tallied 1,000 points at Sierra before signing with CSU-Pueblo. Her freshman year was frustrating, though. Despite the Pack’s 16-13 record, Aubrey wished she saw the court more. When the Thunderwolves hired longtime family friend Tommie Johnson as their new head coach in early 2019, Robinson knew next season would be her time.
Coach Johnson knew Aubrey growing up, having met her mom at church in Colorado Springs. For years, he watched her on-court development at Harrison and Sierra. It was purely by coincidence Johnson and Robinson were reunited. Johnson kept Robinson on the team during the transition, ready for a big year from her.
As CSU-Pueblo started fall workouts in September of 2019, Aubrey took a quick detour to a family reunion in North Carolina.
“It’s a once in a lifetime deal. Go out there and have some fun with your family,” Coach Johnson told her, initially hesitant to let Aubrey go. “We’ll run you a bit extra to get you in shape.”
Aubrey wouldn’t step back on the court that year. On the last day of the reunion, Robinson and four others were involved in a single-car crash in Bolton, NC. All four of her family members in the car were seriously hurt. The fifth person, her cousin’s boyfriend, was killed.
“I was kinda in a daze,” Robinson said, recalling the crash. “I’m sure I passed out. I couldn’t open my eyes initially. You know that screaming, screeching in your ear? That’s what I was hearing.”
All of Aubrey’s family members were rushed to different hospitals in the Wilmington area. She suffered a punctured lung, lacerated liver, as well as a skull fracture millimeters from her brain, that left her with nerve damage in her face.
And worst of all, the news about her dislocated legs.
“I had stretched the sciatic nerve so bad that I had no feeling in my legs,” Robinson said. “I had to learn how to walk again.”
After a week in the hospital and a grueling three-day drive back to Colorado, Robinson’s rehab began.
“I had a goal now. I had to get back 100 percent,” Robinson said. “Coach Johnson took a leap of faith on me, so I knew I owed it to him to come back and return in full health.”
Aubrey pushed her body. She took a medical redshirt with the mission of returning to the court by the start of the 2020 season.
“I think I had the best trainers in the country... I can be biased,” Aubrey added, smiling. “I would get to the therapist facility, and they would be like, ‘alright let’s go kind of easy today. Five reps.’ And I’d be like ‘nah, let’s bump it up to 10. I’m feeling good today.’”
“I’m pretty sure her doctors in the Colorado Springs pushed her to the limit,” Johnson said. “I think she was doing above and beyond what she was supposed to do. Just to see her get after it every day. The little things we take for granted. Seeing her just walking, standing underneath the basket. It’s been quite a journey. But she’s taken it all in stride.”
In 15 months, Aubrey went from learning to walk again, to returning to the court for CSU-Pueblo’s season opener Dec. 10 against Adams State.
“I was nervous hours before on the bus just thinking about it,” Aubrey said. “...but when I stepped on the court, the nerves just went away. And it just gave me the feeling of being back in high school playing. I thought I would overthink it, but it really just came natural. And that made me feel good.”
Aubrey played 22 minutes, recording seven points and two rebounds in her return. Coach Johnson says he doesn’t coddle Robinson during practices or games, because she won’t let him.
Now, with her miraculous comeback complete, it’s about Aubrey returning to her previous desire: being an impact player for the Pack.
“She’s gone from inspiration, to being on her way to the player we think shes needs to be. She’s one of the girls now. She has such a high ceiling,” Johnson said.
With one foot once again gliding seamlessly in front of the other, Aubrey is ready to distance herself from the crash. But first, she insists her story needs to be told, to inspire others that are going through difficult times.
“There’s a lot of kids out there that are discouraged... sometimes about either their coaches, themselves, how they perform and stuff,” said Robinson, “I just want them to look at my story, and know if I got through what I did, then you can get through some criticism every now and then on the court.”
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