Shakir Robinson has always welcomed a challenge — be it on the gridiron or in the classroom. As a football standout at Brunswick High School, Robinson inspired his teammates while making friendships that would last a lifetime. He was equally impressive on the scholastic end, excelling at a variety of subjects as well as extra curricular actives.

“I did a lot of different activities. I played football. I also did soccer and track,” he said. “I was in a lot of clubs, like FBLA and student council. I just love to be around people. I’m a people person and I love to be in different environments, connecting on different levels.”

But, as his high school career came to a close, Robinson, like so many other young people, was unsure of what was next. He poured over various colleges, trying to decide which might be best for him. That’s when he first started to think about a future in the armed forces.

“I was scrambling trying to find colleges. I wrote a letter to the football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy. My coach, Coach Floyd, had a connection there,” he said.

That decision certainly paid off. Before he knew it, Robinson was signing an agreement to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. The agreement was that Robinson would complete college, then serve for five years as an officer when he was finished. He was also awarded the opportunity to play football for the prestigious institution. As a student, Robinson knew he would either serve in the Navy or with the Marines upon completion. Of course, service to his country was not entirely unfamiliar to him. In fact, both his parents answered the call of their country.

“My mom was in the Air Force for eight years and my dad was in the military for 23 years. I knew I could do it too,” he said.

Once he arrived, Robinson realized that he was going to have to do his absolute best every day he was at the institution. The academics were top-notch as were the standards of conduct and service.

“I realized how big of a deal that was and what I was there for ... they really expected the best from you. It’s one of the top three STEM schools in the country, especially for engineering,” he said. “I was a history major but I still had to take classes like Calculus III. It was very humbling and you learned to ask questions.”

Football taught him the same kinds of lessons. But it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

“Football was great. It was great beating Army, our biggest rival, four years in a row. A lot of fans come out and support you,” he said, a sense of nostalgia evident in his voice. “It helped me to to solidify my leadership style. It all was good for me — in the classroom and with football. It all helped make me the type of leader I am today.”

And Robinson is certainly a leader. After graduating from the Academy, he decided to go in a bit of a different direction, opting to serve in the Marines instead of the Navy.

“I dabbled with the idea of being a Navy pilot and even trained on Cessna. It was OK. Your mission as a pilot is to safely operate the aircraft while accomplishing the mission,” he said. “But I realized that my leadership style is better suited for leading service members in a hands-on environment than operating an aircraft. Being on the ground and working with Marines is where I could be most effective.”

Robinson also admired the camaraderie and strong sense of teamwork prevalent throughout the United States Marine Corps. And he was looking forward to building those types of lasting bonds.

“After college, I knew my football days would be over and I felt that the Marines was the best way to still have that kind of locker room atmosphere. They are a little more gritty and you really feel the brotherhood,” he said.

While he knew that joining the group would be a mental and physical challenge, he welcomed it. And since, Robinson has become a United States Marine. Soon, he will embark on his first official deployment, to Okinawa, Japan.

Excited for his next adventure, he’s always eager to share his experience and plans for his future with others, especially young people. Robinson knows that, without the military, all of these opportunities, from playing college football to living abroad would not have been possible.

“I’m excited for the ability to travel outside U.S. and even to the opposite coast. Not too many people my age have the opportunity to live in another country. When I talk to student groups, I tell them that I love south Georgia and I plan to come back one day,” he said.

“But I know that I have to go out and experience new things before I can come back here and make my hometown better.”

Robinson is already doing that. He’s established a $500 scholarship for a Brunswick High School student. Those interested should contact their guidance counselor for the details. He also speaks to many students at his alma mater and elsewhere, sharing the story of his journey and what the miliatry can offer them.

“I tell the students I talk to that they need to go out to experience things then they can come home and have something to offer,” Robinson said.

He’s looking forward to meeting more people and becoming accustomed to a variety of experiences and perspectives. Then, Robinson will bring it back to Brunswick to share it all with his friends and neighbors.

But, for now, in addition to his career in the Marines, he’s focusing on motivating the next generation to branch out and embrace their dreams. And, Robinson believes, it all begins with a leap of faith.

“When I speak to students now, I tell them ‘don’t be afraid or limit yourself to Southeastern Georgia, be willing to take a leap or a risk. Go out and experience new things.’ Give back to your country that’s given so much to you, your family and friends. You’ll learn so much about yourself,” he said.

Reporter Lindsey Adkison writes about business and other local topics. Contact her at ladkison@thebrunswicknews.com on Facebook or at 265-8320 ext. 346.