UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson eager to prove doubters wrong

They saw dolphins, ate together, and toured the waters around Marina del Rey, all courtesy of their fifth-year quarterback.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson handled the yacht rental bill thanks to his name, image and wealth of similarities, with the Westwood Wolf sharing the drive with his teammates on the UCLA offense.

He also delivered a message on the eve of his final college training camp.

“I let them all know that’s it,” Thompson-Robinson said, relaying his direction. “I don’t get shots at it anymore. I have five months left, I will love you like hell and give you everything I have and I hope you do the same for me.”

And so it begins, the start of the final season for the quarterback who’s been largely fired, disregarded, and flat-dissed since that day in September 2018 when the true freshman trotted onto the perfectly manicured Rose Bowl field as an injury substitute for the grad transfer Wilton Speight in his first college game.

Progress hasn’t been linear, more losses than wins on his resume, but few Bruins have been better in climbing the school record charts.

Even after Thompson-Robinson clinched a historic 62-33 win over USC as part of a three-game winning streak late last season — his hurdling a Trojan cornerback now engraved in rivalry history — he was discredited yet again. The media chose Thompson-Robinson as the only honorable mention All-Pac-12, behind first team pick Caleb Williams of USC and second team pick Cameron Rising of Utah.

From some perspective, Williams hasn’t thrown a single pass as a Trojan, and Thompson-Robinson may be just months away from breaking Cade McNown’s all-time record as a bruin.

What does a veteran have to do? Just grin baby

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson scores for a touchdown in a blowout win over USC in November.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson scores for a touchdown in a blowout win over USC in November at the Coliseum.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Thompson-Robinson expressed his gratitude as he met with reporters after his team’s first training camp session on Friday. His hoarse voice unleashed every decibel at his disposal as he directed the offensive.

“Screaming and yelling, making calls and everything,” he explained, “so always use my voice.”

There was the usual tumult on day one, players gathering in (fairly) orderly lines before charging ahead into drills, the whistles and cacophony of coaches barking orders was a constant during the 20 or so minutes that reporters were allowed to observe .

The tone was decidedly upbeat, with UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond wearing a hat with a rose on it, even though his school hasn’t appeared in a Rose Bowl game since Jan. 1, 1999. Freshman receiver Braden Pegan caught the brief open session, no doubt hoping it’s a prelude to greater things.

Left tackle Raiqwon O’Neal, a transfer from Rutgers, made his practice debut as part of a realigned offensive line that included the return of central defender Sam Marrazzo from an undisclosed injury. Absent were tight end Mike Martinez and linebacker Damian Sellers, although there was no explanation as coach Chip Kelly was not scheduled to meet with reporters until Saturday.

Defenders spent several minutes stealing balls from teammates’ hands as part of a patrol exercise, with takeaways a focus for new defense coordinator Bill McGovern.

Linebacker Bo Calvert joked that the defense was disappointed they weren’t invited to the boat ride, Calvert sent a message after his own beach vacation with teammates.

“I made a video,” Calvert said, “and I was like, ‘Hey, all the defenders rented the beach.’ … Dorian knocked out all the offensive players, so the defense was a bit salty, but it’s all good.”

Looking out at the practice turf gleaming in the late morning heat on a bright, sunny day, Thompson-Robinson was asked what advice he would give to his version of himself preparing for his first collegiate season.

It’s about learning how to be a quarterback, he said, a more complicated endeavor than it might seem.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs with the ball during April's Bruins' Spring Showcase.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson runs with the ball during April’s Bruins’ Spring Showcase.

(Kyusung Gong / For Time)

“Everyone thinks you just go out there and throw a ball and you’re leading,” Thompson-Robinson said, using his fingers to enclose quotation marks to illustrate the ambiguity of the concept. “What leads if you don’t know what you’re doing? So I think that’s it really. I just go back and try to teach [true freshman quarterback] Justyn [Martin] everything I would have liked to have known at the time and tried to keep him on track.”

What does leadership mean to Thompson-Robinson?

“To me, leadership means absolutely loving your teammates and loving what you do every day and showing that through your actions,” he said. “Anything you do through your actions is projected onto your teammates far more than your words, so I think that’s where I grew and made the most strides in terms of leadership.”

As the Bruins go where none of their predecessors have gone in nearly a quarter-century, they could point to the quarterback and the “Love Boat” as impetus for some special things.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-08-05/ucla-football-dorian-thompson-robinson-final-season UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson eager to prove doubters wrong

Emma Bowman

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