Robbie Irwin is a sharp kid.
More than one school approached the William Blount speedster about bringing his talents to their college. Bethel University was different, though. The Wildcats staff came to the school. They stayed in touch.
On national signing day last week, Irwin showed just how much that matters in recruiting. The Governor running back/defensive back/kick returner signed a National Letter of the Intent with the McKenzie school. Who the Wildcats are, and where they are, was a big part of the equation.
“I just liked the campus,” Irwin said. “I like the facilities. I felt at home there.”
Other schools contacted him but didn’t put forth much of an effort and follow through, he said. They would call initially.
“Then all they wanted to do is text me,” Irwin said.
Who Irwin is matters as much, if not more, as how fast his legs are, William Blount coach David Gregory said.
Gregory, in his first season with the Governors last fall, took over a William Blount program that had seen three coaches in four years. With the Governors coming off a 1-9 season in 2008, coach Scott Meadows returned from a year-long leave of absence, took William Blount through spring practice then promptly left for the head coaching job at Catholic.
Gregory was hired in May, taking over a program with little depth and a great many questions.
With little to start with, the Governors put together a 3-7 campaign, becoming a team few opponents wanted to play by season’s end. Seniors like the do-it-all Irwin and offensive lineman Randall Davis, who signed with Cumberland University last week, held the team together, Gregory said.
“I think it’ll help them persevere even more in life with what they’ve been through,” he said. “I think they’ll do real well. I thought both schools got great kids. They know what they want to do in life, and they know what it’s going to take.”
Two Governor losses in 2009 were by less than a touchdown. An emotionally charged contest at Catholic at midseason was in doubt late until the Irish pulled clear for a 24-6 win. William Blount led then-district frontrunner Bearden, 10-0, at halftime before the Bulldogs rallied for a 24-10 victory.
The tenacity the Governors displayed, considering the obstacles they faced, should be largely credited to Gregory, Irwin said.
“He’s kind of like a rock,” he said. “I don’t see him leaving anytime soon.
“He didn’t have a long time to work with us before our first game, and he did a great job. He will turn William Blount around.”
Players like Irwin, Gregory said, already have.