The lasting impact of 20-year-old Quinton Robbins’ death was apparent in the way his Henderson junior high school instructors choked up as they spoke affectionately about the boy nicknamed “Q.”
But they weren’t the only ones who were emotional Wednesday in a solemn and touching ceremony in which the No. 3 basketball jersey, worn by Robbins some years ago when he played for B. Mahlon Brown Academy of International Studies, was retired.
Robbins was one of the 58 people killed on Oct. 1.
“It’s a proud moment to know that you raised your kid in a way that people respect,” said his father, Joe, “It’s a good thing,” he added before briefly breaking down.
The ceremony took place before a basketball game. Robbins’ loved ones, school staff and a multitude of teenagers — some in their basketball and cheerleading uniforms — packed the gym.
The majority of the crowd faced a podium on the basketball court flanked by red and black balloons and rows of boys and girls basketball players.
Two “Q3” balloons floated near the benches and a black No. 3 jersey was draped on an empty chair reserved for Robbins.
For now, the number belongs to his younger brother Quade, a current basketball player at the Henderson school, but won’t be worn by anyone else after the teen leaves for high school.
Although the gym was crowded, a solemn quiet fell as those in attendance listened attentively.
Coach Scott Berg not only spoke about Quinton the basketball player, who was so talented that during a last-second play he was used as a decoy, leaving the shot taker wide open.
“Quinton was just as happy as if he’d made the shot, and that was the kind of person he was,” Berg said.
Berg recalled Robbins being the unofficial leader of the “Nerd Herd,” a dedicated and gifted group of students who earned good grades, made smart choices and stayed close through their high school graduations — they later teamed up on an adult softball team.
Berg’s son was part of the herd and since Robbins’ death has changed his college baseball team jersey to No. 3. Berg’s daughter, who plays basketball and visits Robbins’ grave before every game, also changed her number.
"Seeing (the retired) jersey in this gym will always put a smile on my face and hopefully be a reminder to the students who walk these hallways to live their life and make decisions the same way Quinton did,” Berg said. “With kindness and compassion.”
At the middle school, Robbins was taught by Leroy Chase. The since-retired teacher faced a challenge when he wrote his remarks for the ceremony. He picked up a thesaurus to find adjectives that best represent his former student.
The teacher found “exceptional, extraordinary, very unusual, outstanding, kind, considerate, rare,” and next thing he knew, he’d easily discover more than 50 applicable terms. Robbins was a “very special young man.”
The Nerd Herd and the teacher bonded, Chase said. They’d have lunch in his classroom, where the students had also built an impromptu diamond and played “mini baseball.”
Chase remembers Robbins as an honor student who was on the student council; who would go on multiple school field trips; and who eventually became his friend, even after he’d left the school. Before the teacher retired, Robbins — as would other members of the Nerd Herd — would often pay him visits at school.
Chase would visit the Robbins family, bringing along his former student’s favorite snacks, Red Vines and cream soda. “I will always be grateful for that day when a very special sixth-grade boy entered upon the classroom scene and brought a very special benefit to my life that will have lasting memories,” Chase said. “He was a part of a very special and unique group of men.
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Quinton,” Chase said in conclusion. “I love you and I miss you.”
At the end of the ceremony, the Robbins family were summoned to the front where they were handed a Vegas Strong sign and a black No. 3 jersey. The crowd erupted in applause.
Afterward, Joe Robbins further spoke about his son to reporters, with Quinton’s mother, Tracey, weeping quietly to the side. “It’s overwhelming to say the least.”
“We don’t know anything different to compare it to, but I’ll tell you, I would bet that most schools do not do this and treat their students like they do here,” Robbins said.
“It’s emotional,” Robbins said. “It’s still very difficult to know that he’s gone,” but acts like Wednesday’s, with the community stepping up and showering them with support, have helped.
After Oct. 1, more donations than they used poured into a fundraiser, so the family is in the final stages of establishing the “Play it Forward Foundation for Quinton Robbins,” with the intent of providing sports scholarships for the middle school and Basic High School, according to the family.
The Playitforward in Honor of Quinton Robbins Facebook group encourages its members to engage in acts of kindness. Cards with a picture of Robbins are handed out during these acts.