UCLA’s Dorian Robinson-Thompson turned to chess to improve quarterback skills
There were times at UCLA when it looked as if Dorian Robinson-Thompson was playing chess for Chip Kelly and everyone else was playing checkers.
Because he was.
“Coach Kelly brought in a chess guru, and he is now my life coach, someone that I go to all the time for advice,” DTR said. “As we started to go through seasons together, he was learning football, I was learning chess.”
He was learning from a man named Seth Makowsky that playing chess could help him play quarterback, and checkmate defenses with his head and his legs and his arm.
“A thousand percent, in terms of having a better process and really a routine of making decisions, going through an exact process to get the right answer every time, to ultimately execute each play given,” DTR said.
He ended up executing enough plays to become a 6-1, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback expecting to have his name called during the NFL draft possibly as early as the third round.
Which means he has come a long way since his freshman 2018 season when chess helped him find himself.
“It was a time in my freshman year, we were starting out the season 0-5, and there was really a time where I really didn’t think I wanted to play football anymore,” DTR said. “The pressure and the expectations were so high, and I obviously have high standards for myself, so not meeting those and obviously letting a bunch of people down that year, as well as my teammates, was definitely a bit of a work in progress for sure.”
He was much more than a work in progress (27 TDs, 10 INTs, 69.6 completion percentage, 118-645-12 TDs rushing in 2022. As a fifth-year senior, DTR led the Bruins to a 9-4 record and a Sun Bowl appearance.
“I’m not only trying to win the game, I’m trying to embarrass you,” DTR said.
Which he was able to do on a number of viral hurdles, particular one against USC defensive back Isaac Taylor-Stuart on a 15-yard TD run down the right sideline on a 62-33 rout of the hated Trojans at the Coliseum in 2021.
“I wish I did it sooner in the game when there were more people there to watch, but that one was definitely sweet though,” DTR said.
Get the complete list of first-round 2023 NFL Draft picks, with analysis and more from the New York Post.
DTR’s work with Jordan Palmer helped him tie Josh Allen with a 62 mph throw at the Combine. “I’ve been able to access parts of my body, especially in the lower half, to create more velocity and more torque on my ball and everything like that,” he said.
DTR wears a chess saying on his wristband that reads: “Player not a piece.” He was asked for its meaning.
“You want to be a player in your own game, and playing your own style and not letting them dictate whatever you want to do, and not being a piece in someone else’s game,” DTR said.
Another saying he has adopted from chess is Protect The King.
“For me, as a quarterback, that’s the ball,” he said. “Outside, when I’m not a quarterback and living my regular life, that’s my responsibility to my organization and whoever I’m representing to not make them look foolish and whatever it is, so staying out of trouble and all that stuff too.”
He was a wide receiver his junior year before switching to quarterback as a senior at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas and that is where he will watch the draft.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson was asked if he had a message for NFL general managers.
“Get ready to have a winner,” he said, “whoever decides to take a chance on me.” Check.