EDMOND — Bryce Robinson just needed a good place to go.
Kicked out of his home after his sophomore year at Edmond Memorial, his life was headed down a less-than-desirable path.
Bad crowd, bad choices, bad grades.
Robinson needed something good, but he found much more. The Billeters, an Edmond family with a daughter in Robinson's grade, took him in — temporarily at first.
They provided stability in his life, a positive support system that Robinson struggled to find with his mother. They took him to church, and made him feel important.
With that, all the negative momentum in Robinson's life turned upward.
His grades and behavior improved dramatically. He became seriously involved in athletics — he had always competed in various sports, but never fully committed to any of them.
It has been less than two years since he was kicked out of his home. Not even six months since he ran his first track meet.
Yet, last Monday afternoon, Robinson signed a letter of intent to accept a track scholarship to the University of Tulsa.
His journey from an on-the-edge teen to nationally ranked high school sprinter has been about as fast as some of his 100-meter times.
Robinson's fastest 100 so far is 10.42 seconds, just half a second off the state record. He set a Mid-State Conference meet record in the 200 in 21.06.
Tulsa began recruiting him in November, having never actually seen him run. Their interest was based solely on seeing his times posted online from an indoor meet in Arkansas — the first meet he ever ran in.
Oklahoma, LSU and a variety of other programs began to recruit him as well, but he settled on Tulsa in part because of his desire to go into mechanical engineering.
Robinson's athletic ceiling is high. He's still very raw on the track, having competed in only eight outdoor meets. His body hasn't taken the beating that years of training can bring. And he has become a student of the sport, hoping to learn every detail that might help him shave a few more tenths off his times.
“We're beginning to refine him and fine-tune him a little,” coach Chris Lowrey said. “That's one of the things that makes him so attractive to colleges. They know they can help sculpt him and mold him.
“If he looks raw now, he was even more raw in November — he was an open scab. And that just goes to his work ethic and diligence. He's a great leader for some of our younger kids.”
However, Robinson's bright future on the track is hardly the most valuable piece of his transformed life.
“He's so happy and so friendly,” Lowrey said. “He's just an amazing kid and so outgoing. From talking to him, you'd never guess the type of life he's had up until the last couple years.
If you're going to have a son, that's the type of son you'd like to have. To know what he's gone through to get here, it's uplifting to the human spirit, to see what people are capable of when they put their mind to it.”
The summer before his junior year, Robinson and his two siblings were living with his mother at her boyfriend's house.
It was the boyfriend who kicked him out, Robinson said. He bounced around from day to day, hoping the situation would change so that he could be with his family again.
But it never happened.
Shawn and Tammy Billeter already had a busy life with two teenage daughters, Ashton and Kelsie, but they offered Robinson a place to stay.
“We knew there would be some influence that wouldn't be very positive in his life,” Shawn said. “So we offered an extra room for him to stay in until we could figure out what was going to happen.”
Robinson had lived with them for a while before anyone began to consider the idea of it becoming a permanent situation.
“We took several weeks before we even offered it,” Shawn said. “We wanted to make sure everyone was 100 percent comfortable with it. When we offered it to him, he just beamed. He was so excited.”
Eventually, the Billeters began the process to take legal guardianship of Robinson, and his mother cooperated in signing the documents to make it official.
“He's so appreciative, and an awesome son. But he has blessed us way more than we've blessed him,” Shawn said.
Added Tammy: “We've watched him grow, but honestly, we've grown more.”
The Billeters originally met Robinson because he was dating Ashton. Obviously, that relationship had to end if Robinson was going to live in the home.
Shawn wanted to make it clear that Robinson would be treated the same as if he had been their child all along.
“We had to pray that we wouldn't treat him different, because a lot of people could since he's not our birth child,” Tammy said. “The love we have for him is no different than the love we have for our girls.”
Watching his turnaround has been a special experience for the Billeters, who credit God for having His hand on the situation.
Had Robinson kept on his previous path, he wouldn't even be academically eligible for a Division I college scholarship right now. The football coaches originally weren't going to allow him to come out last fall, because of his bad influence when he played as a freshman.
But now, he has become the model of what a student-athlete should be.
“It's just amazing to see how God has totally transformed him,” Tammy said. “And Bryce let Him. He was ready for it to happen. He sees that it's just the little things in life, that if you don't just focus on your situation, you can always go somewhere in life.”
Robinson has no contact with his birth mother now, despite the fact that she lives and works nearby in Edmond — “I just don't feel like that's the best thing for me,” he said.
He has a new family now. He doesn't live with Shawn and Tammy Billeter. He lives with his Mom and Dad, and their parental support has brought Robinson a new life.
“I was a person that didn't do the right things,” he said. “I was going in the total wrong direction. Then I met this family. They took me in, introduced me to God, and it's been such an amazing, amazing thing. God has worked so many miracles in my life.”