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Dorian Thompson-Robinson takes leadership to new heights heading into 2022 season

UCLA football redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (right) walks alongside redshirt sophomore quarterback Ethan Garbers (left) at a practice. (Jon Christon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

Aug. 7, 2022 6:27 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Dorian Thompson-Robinson enrolled early at UCLA in the spring of 2018.

This post was updated August 9 at 1:21 p.m.

Classes don’t begin for another month in Westwood, but it was the first day back for a few Bruins over the weekend.

For one player donning the blue and gold, it marked the beginning of the end.

UCLA football kicked off its first day of fall camp Friday, beginning a stretch of 16 official practices before the Bruins open the 2022 season with a week of game preparation before their season opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 3. Redshirt senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson was front and center at Wasserman Football Center on Friday, embarking on his fifth and final fall camp.

“It’s the last first day,” Thompson-Robinson said. “(I’m) just trying to soak it all in.”

Thompson-Robinson will lead UCLA for one more campaign after opting to take his fifth year of eligibility in the offseason. The quarterback led the Bruins to their first winning season in six years in 2021, pacing the conference in total touchdowns en route to an All-Pac-12 Second Team selection.

Entering the 2022 campaign as the most experienced signal-caller in the conference and with preseason All-Pac-12 recognition, Thompson-Robinson is on the verge of setting a number of program records.

In his four and half years with the blue and gold, Thompson-Robinson has thrown for 7,541 yards, good for fifth all-time in UCLA history and 3,167 yards behind Cade McNown’s first-place mark. His 61 passing touchdowns are also 14 shy of Brett Hundley’s 75.

“His arm and his legs is different than what I’ve been around,” said redshirt senior wide receiver Jake Bobo on Saturday. “That’s kind of what sets him apart. He can make good plays with his arm, but then you look away for a second and he’s got a 30-yard scramble.”

But while his statistical resume continues to climb, Thompson-Robinson said he’s grown the most as a leader.

Joining the Bruins as part of the 2018 recruiting class, Thompson-Robinson was quickly rushed in as the team’s primary signal-caller during his first career contest after entering as an injury replacement. Although he called the shots on the field for most of his true freshman season, Thompson-Robinson said he didn’t know what it meant to actually be a leader at the time.

“You’ve got to learn how to be a quarterback,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Everybody thinks you just go out there and throw a ball and you ‘lead.’ What’s leading if you don’t know what you’re doing?”

(Jon Christon/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Thompson-Robinson throws a ball with freshman quarterback Justyn Martin and senior quarterback Chase Griffin looking on. (Jon Christon/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Fast forward four years, and Thompson-Robinson said he’s finally figured it out.

“Leading is loving the absolute hell out of your teammates and loving what you do every day and showing that through your actions,” Thompson-Robinson said.

That’s why Thompson-Robinson said he has taken freshman quarterback Justyn Martin as his protegee, hoping to teach him what he wishes he knew in 2018 about being a leader.

It’s also why he organized a boat ride around Marina del Rey for his offensive teammates ahead of fall camp. Using name, image and likeness to fund the expedition, Thompson-Robinson said getting the offense together was necessary to build camaraderie before the new season.

Bobo – a newcomer to UCLA after transferring from Duke in the offseason – said his transition to the Bruins has been seamless because of actions like those from Thompson-Robinson.

“I came in, and he immediately took me under his wing,” Bobo said. “He always says, ‘If you have any questions, text me, call me, whatever.’ I take full advantage of that.”

Redshirt junior wide receiver Kam Brown has already spent a season with Thompson-Robinson, but he said there’s a new side to his quarterback this year after just two days of fall camp.

“He was a great leader for us last year, too, but he just stepped it up to a whole nother notch,” Brown said. “Everybody notices.”

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Jon Christon | Sports senior staff
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently a Sports senior staff writer. He was previously the Sports editor on the men's basketball and football beats and the assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats. Christon was previously a contributor on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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