Once again, Alcoa is sending a Mr. Football winner to the University of Kentucky.
Once again, word is the former Tornado will never play the position in college for which he won much of his fame in high school.
Tyler Robinson isn’t buying it.
The All-State tight end signed a National Letter of intent with the Wildcats on national signing day last Wednesday at the high school. A talented athlete in all respects, Robinson also starred at defensive end for four seasons with the Tornadoes. As a sophomore, he’d been named defensive most valuable player of the state championship game.
This past season, Robinson was on the field for the Tornadoes for everything but the kickoff team, handling the punting as well, as Alcoa rolled to an unprecedented sixth consecutive state title and 11th overall.
Robinson is a tight end cut from the same mold as muscular Dallas Cowboys great Jason Witten. Robinson’s hands and footwork are as good as he’s seen at the position, Alcoa coach Gary Rankin said. There’s little doubt, he said, his former charge could play the position in college, even in the Southeastern Conference.
“He’s a good enough athlete,” Rankin said. “I think that’s why they took him. They’re going to start him at tight end.”
The nation’s big-time colleges and universities are notorious for saying whatever it takes to get a prospects signature on the dotted line. When they report to campus, it’s often a different story.
Robinson is confident the Kentucky coaching staff will at least give him a shot at tight end. Wildcat sophomore Randall Cobb is proof, he said, the Big Blue has no problem keeping its word.
Cobb, himself a Mr. Football winner with the Tornadoes two years ago, was said to be undersized to play quarterback on the college level. He’d move to receiver as soon as he made it to Lexington, many felt.
The last two seasons, Cobb has proven Kentucky’s most productive quarterback, all while doubling as one of the Wildcats top pass catchers.
“I know for a fact they are going to give me the same chance,” Robinson said. “If not, I’m sure they’ll find some place better suited for me.”
Robinson amassed superb numbers as a receiving tight end in being selected a Mr. Football winner his junior season. His statistics took a hit this past season when quarterback Austin Tallant suffered a broken hand early in the season, a fact he hid from the Tornado coaching staff for the duration of the season.
With Tallant seemingly struggling, Alcoa turned to the running game in rolling to a 15-0 championship season. Tailback JaRon Toney smashed the state record for rushing touchdowns in a season in the process.
“When you’ve got a running back that’s breaking records, it kind of grows into that,” Rankin said.
The way the Kentucky staff handled Cobb is one reason Robinson feels good about his chances with the Wildcats. Another is the way former Wildcat coach Rich Brooks handled the final days of his recruiting.
Brooks stepped down at the end of the season, passing reins of the Kentucky program to former offensive coordinator Joker Phillips. Long before, Brooks had been open with Robinson he might not be around when the latter finished his Wildcat career.
“I knew coach Brooks was going to resign sometime,” Robinson said. “He came to the house and ate with us and he told my mom he might not be there when I graduate.”
That up-front approach led Robinson to never consider signing with another school.