Robinson up for National ACE awards

Published 3:00 am Sunday, June 24, 2018

Payton Robinson streaks down the basketball court for the Charles Henderson Trojans, feeling a great pain in his leg but pressing on anyways. Then, suddenly, his leg snaps – not his skin and bone, but the prosthetic attachment he has worn since 3rd grade.

Of course, it has been switched out many times since then.

“It breaks completely and we have to get it replaced,” Robinson said. “It costs my parents money, but they just tell me to keep playing and keep doing good.”

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Robinson lost the leg when he was just 8 years old, after doctors found that it was no longer growing. It was either amputation or Robinson would never walk again.

Robinson’s perseverance through that adversity on the court and on the classroom earned him the ACE (Accepting the Challenge of Excellence) award from the Troy Exchange Club in May, an award of a plaque and $1,000. Just two weeks ago, he was named the ACE award winner for the entire district, winning another $1,000 prize.

He will travel to Reno, Nevada in June to compete for the National Exchange Club’s top honor of $10,000 in scholarship funds.

Robinson said the amputation came as a shock for him at his young age.

“At first I didn’t really know what was going on,” Robinson said. “I was little; I didn’t know until we started visiting people with prosthetics. I was scared at first because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me; I thought they were going to take my whole leg. They actually cut it below the knee.”

Even now, Robinson sometimes still feels as if the rest of his leg is still there.

“My brain thought my leg was still there,” Robinson said. “Even though I could see that there’s no foot there, in my mind, I could feel it and move it. It’s called a phantom limb; there are still some days I feel like I have the foot.”

But Robinson was an active kid, and he was determined to continue playing sports, no matter what others thought

“In middle school, I had tryouts and a lot of people would say I’m not going to make the team,” Robinson said. “That same day, I broke my leg. I really thought I was not going to be normal again and I had to keep fighting and fighting. It’s never a good day – if I run it hurts; so I just got used to pain. For me, playing gave me motivation.”

Playing was also his motivation to keep up with his academics.

“Well, my momma, she was a teacher, so she made me do my lessons,” Robinson said. “It was either learn and play ball or no ball at all. So I learned and did my lesson.”

It’s out on the court though where Robinson says he feels at home.

“I feel accepted when I play basketball,” Robinson said. “If you look at me, you can never tell because I always wear pants. People are surprised I can play when they see I have a prosthetic and keep up and run, jump and shoot.”

Not only did Robinson have to overcome the physical limitations of losing his leg, he said in his ACE application that he had to overcome a feeling of shame he had.

“I prayed because that’s what I knew to do,” Robinson said. “And God eventually allowed me to overcome my shame on the basketball court.”

Now Robinson is focusing on a life beyond basketball, at least on the team representing his school, as he moves forward in his academic career at Troy University, where he plans to take general studies classes before transferring and earning a degree in civil engineering or mechanical engineering with a minor in architecture.

Robinson said he wants to use whatever knowledge he gets to inspire others in the community to persevere like he has and to be whatever they dream they can be.

In the meantime, he’ll still be out on the court between classes, playing with his friends right where he belongs.