Why Shane Beamer brought Travian Robinson from Tulane back to South Carolina

·5 min read

Travian Robertson glanced at the salmon sitting in his kitchen in New Orleans. He was trying to be helpful, preparing dinner while his wife, Kettiany, took their kids to track practice. Still, he wasn’t quite sure of the exact oven temperature to use.

So Robertson rang Kettiany. She answered. Robertson’s phone buzzed again. He had another call waiting: South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer.

“It took me about two hours to cook that food after he called me,” Robertson said, tongue-in-cheek.

On Tuesday, two weeks after Robertson took a few extra minutes to cook dinner, he was introduced as South Carolina’s new defensive line coach. He replaces Jimmy Lindsey, who departed USC for LSU and a new contract that will reportedly include a nearly $300,000 annual raise.

But this day and moment weren’t about reminiscing on the past — at least not the immediate past.

Beamer and the 16 minutes of questions he answered included little about Lindsey’s departure. Rather, the focus was on Robertson — a favorite son on the fast-track to coaching stardom who was back at the place where he starred as a player.

Robertson’s bio is well-known in Columbia: He was a stalwart along the defensive line for Steve Spurrier. He was a captain of the 2011 team that finished 11-2 and thumped No. 21 Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. His story, too, is uniquely Columbia.

The ex-Gamecock defensive tackle met Kettiany at USC, where she won an SEC title in the pentathlon. They were married on the Horseshoe. They held their son’s baby shower and first birthday at Andy’s Deli. His first job in coaching came, in part, through a connection with former South Carolina assistant Shawn Elliott, now the head coach at Georgia State.

Those ties — and coaching ability — made the decision a no-brainer for Beamer.

“He was a guy that was all business all the time,” Beamer said of Robertson as a player. “... I thought he was very professional in everything that he did. I always had a lot of respect for him because of the way he played on the field, but the way he handled himself and took care of business off the field as well.”

That Beamer needed to fill an on-field assistant coaching job at this point in the calendar is unique. Position coaching changes are generally made in January and February, barring something unforeseen. But when LSU head coach Brian Kelly alerted Beamer 12 days ago that he might be interested in talking to Lindsey for the Tigers’ defensive line opening vacated by Jamar Cain — who, coincidentally, worked with Beamer at Oklahoma — the wheels started to turn.

Beamer said he only made one call when he felt Lindsey might leave. (Whether it was actually a single call is semantics). A Zoom meeting interview with Beamer, Robertson and defensive coordinator Clayton White followed on Friday afternoon, only a few hours after Lindsey had stopped by the office to grab his things. News of Robertson’s hiring leaked by Sunday night.

That’s about as fast a turn as it gets.

“When I thought there might be a position open, I called (Robertson),” Beamer explained. “I’m like, ‘Man, I’m sorry if this thing doesn’t happen, but I’m excited and I want to reach out and make sure that this is something you’re interested in if this does happen.’ “

When Lindsey accepted the LSU job, Beamer said, “it took me about 15 seconds to pick up the phone and call him.”

Beamer lauded Robertson’s track record over his five full years in college coaching. Robertson, like Beamer, was here for the high-water marks of South Carolina football. That’s not insignificant.

Robertson regaled reporters on Tuesday with tales from his playing days. He joked about how he and Elliott bantered back and forth when he was a player. That relationship is part of what landed him his first coaching job as a graduate assistant at Georgia State in 2017 after a four-year NFL career. Robertson, too, elaborated on his memories of the 2010 wins over Alabama and Florida, contests that still resonate in Gamecocks lore 13 years later.

That Florida game, he said, smiling, still resonates.

Outside discussion entering the week hinged more on Urban Meyer’s Gators than it did Spurrier’s Gamecocks. Robertson didn’t understand why. He glanced around the locker room. Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore, Stephen Garcia, Melvin Ingram and Marcus Lattimore sat in the crowd. “They’re good,” Robertson said. “But we’re good, too.”

South Carolina finished off Florida 36-14, giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff. The Gators mustered only 226 yards that day. The Gamecocks played in the SEC Championship two weeks later.

“I remember Coach (Spurrier) telling us all we had to do was beat Georgia, Tennessee and Florida and we had a chance of playing on the big stage,” Robertson recounted. “And we did that.”

Robertson has barely had time to get reacquainted with his adopted home. His family is still back in New Orleans, preparing to move following his shift from Tulane to South Carolina. Robertson himself is slated to hit the road recruiting on Tuesday.

He’ll quickly get to know his position group at defensive tackle, one that returns Tonka Hemingway, Alex “Boogie” Huntley, Nick Barrett and T.J. Sanders, but must replace former five-star recruit Zacch Pickens.

In the meantime, Robertson can take a second to breathe easy. It’s good to be home.