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Bills cornerback adds legacy of his mother to his surname


When Nickell Robey steps out on the practice field at training camp Saturday there will be something different about his on field appearance. The five-letter surname on the back of his jersey will be considerably longer.

After taking the necessary steps to legally change his last name this spring, Buffalo's fourth-year cornerback now goes by Nickell Robey-Coleman.

"I did the paperwork in mid-May," Robey-Coleman told "I filled out everything and sent it to my agent. She faxed it off to the state of Florida. The court system was asking for a written explanation as to why I'm getting my name changed to include my mom's maiden name. I took care of that and now I'm good to go."

The Bills slot defender had long considered making the change to pay homage to his late mother whose maiden name was Coleman.

Maxine Robey was the epitome of class. She was beloved in her community, a devoted wife, cherished mother and the central figure in her family. What wasn't always good was her health. Robey-Coleman lost his mother to heart failure when he was in high school. She was just 44-years old.

With Robey's father since remarried and with stepchildren to raise, Buffalo's slot corner did not want there to be any confusion about his family and where he comes from.

"It's a tribute to my mom," said Robey-Coleman. "I was thinking about my future. I know I'm going to have kids one day. My father had married another woman and somebody had contacted me asking if she was my mom. I told him, 'No, my mom passed away and is living her second life.'"

But with his father's new wife taking their surname of Robey, it has misperceptions about the family. Misperceptions that Robey-Coleman wanted to eliminate as he contemplated his own future family.

"It's history. It's living history and a big deal to me," he said of his name change. "That's a personal thing. I really believe in bloodlines. There are a lot of people that have bloodlines out there and you can't hide a bloodline. You put me next to my dad and I look just like him. I'm the spitting image. You put my sister next to my mom they look the same. So it's a big deal to me. So when my kids grow up and they ask what my history is I can tell them that they're a Robey and a Coleman."

Robey-Coleman wanted to make the name change while he was still a student athlete at USC, but was talked out of it by his sister and other family members. He saw where his father's new relationship was headed after his mother passed away. He had concerns that his stepmother would try to benefit off of his name.

His stepmother's name was initially hyphenated with Robey on the end after she married Robey-Coleman's father. But as Robey-Coleman embarked on an NFL career she shortened her last name to simply Robey and did the same for each of her four children.

"When she switched that name for her kids I said, 'That's fine,'" said Robey-Coleman. "I'm here because of my mom, not her."

When his mother passed, long before his stepmother's surname changes, he had the foresight to have only Coleman etched on her headstone. He knew even then the importance of preserving his mother's name.

"Now my family is thanking me," he said. "I saw something that they didn't all see. I knew where I was going to be. I knew I was going to be in the NFL. I know what people do as far as leeching off of you. I saw that. So when I go home it doesn't say Maxine Robey, it says Maxine Coleman. It's got her kids names on there. So when I have kids and I take them to that tombstone I can explain why they're a Coleman."

Anticipation has always helped Robey-Coleman as an NFL cornerback. It's also clearly helped him preserve his family's legacy.

"I always look into the future. I've been a really stable guy, but I always look ahead," he said. "I try to be more like a visionary type person, not just on the field, but off the field as well. When you're on the football field you have to visualize making plays. You have to see the play before it even happens. We all have that type of mindset.

"All through my life, there are certain situations you look at and see where you can make it better. It's just like plays that you look at before the game. You look at a play and say that's a play where I could make something happen. It's like life. You have a vision of what you're going to be in life, but inside that vision you've got to build. It's not an easy task.

"So I just keep everything in perspective as far as life, where I want to be, what I want my kids to see, what I want my family to see. It's keeping that balance in life. It's the same on the football field. You can't get too high or too low. You stay poised and stick with it. So I try to keep that approach."

That's why when it came to honoring his mother the decision concerning his surname was an easy one.

"This is my bloodline, Robey… Coleman," he said. "It's clean and simple and now it's done."

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