Maurice Robinson is my new favorite high school athlete.
It has nothing to do with the team he plays for. It’s not because of how fast he can run, how far he can throw a football or how hard he could tackle.
It’s all because of the choice he made. In case you missed it, Robinson is a three-star high school football prospect out of Alabama. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, he was a dual-threat quarterback and defensive back, and played well enough to draw recruiting attention from the likes of LSU and even 2017 national champion Alabama. He also had offers from Memphis and Troy.
But Robinson spurned ‘Bama, his home state, and future college football hall of fame coaching legend Nick Saban to attend a much lesser known, less prestigious — as far as college football powerhouses go — Grambling State.
Yes. He chose Grambling State — an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Louisiana over a school that most people who have the highest aspirations to play college football would dream to play.
Why did he do it? Well, when I read his response to an interview he had with Cory Diaz from The News-Star, it is then that he became my favorite player.
Robinson said: “It was a hard process from the start. I had big colleges looking at me. All of that could get into your head if you don’t take care of the process the right way.”
Wait. It gets better.
“It was an easy decision to make,” he continued. “I didn’t really fall into the light that they shined on me. I didn’t get into the hype they threw at me.”
Surely Robinson had some detractors — people who thought he was throwing away a chance of a life time. Ironically, most of the people who express such sentiments publicly are usually middle-aged men on spend silly amounts of time stalking young athletes on Twitter, giving them their unsolicited opinions on their future. But the decision isn’t really about them.
It isn’t about making the fans happy. It isn’t about helping some old guy live out his dreams vicariously through a young kid with man-sized athletic ability.
It’s not even about the school or the coaches. And dare I even say that the college decision isn’t even all about the student-athlete’s parents or family. It’s about the athlete. It’s one of the rare times in life that I believe in giving someone a pass for being selfish.
Robinson chose a school that seems to be an off-the-beaten-path choice for college football relevance. He chose a place that, as it stands now, doesn’t really scream limelight or “look at me.” And I, for one, am hoping that Robinson’s choice can be the beginning of a movement for young athletes.
That movement, in particular, is one to help them understand that there are good, quality, viable alternatives to the banner carrying programs of what we consider big-time college football. And through those programs, dreams and goals can still be met and exceeded — namely getting a high-level college education. Winning championships and, yes, making it to play professional sports.
In the aforementioned interview, Robinson unpacked the reasons why he chose Grambling.
“Grambling was real and direct and I respected that from the start,” he said. “That’s what finalized my decision. The players and coaches made it feel like home. I was comfortable there. I like the atmosphere and that’s what convinced me to make the decision to come there.”
Did you see how many “I’s” and “me’s” were in that statement? Ultimately, the college choice is definitely all about the student, because it will have a direct impact on that students future, both near and distant.
For most, it’s probably the first major choice or decision a child will make that will have life-long implications. It will be one of the first decisions made where the majority of the fruit from that decision will manifest outside of the safe confines of the child’s place of rearing. So it’s got to be about him or her.
I’m grateful that I’m hearing more talk about how non-Power Five schools, FCS schools, HBCUs, Division II, III and NAIA schools are not as frequently being referred to as second rate programs or as a downgrade. And I’m glad for more athletes like Robinson who are being highlighted for choosing such schools as a first option instead of an alternative or last resort.
As National Signing Day approaches, chances are few, if any, of our remaining unsigned athletes in the area will sign to the Alabamas, Georgias and Clemsons of the world. But I hope the chances are even greater that we’ll celebrate these athletes as vigorously as if they just ran off the Mercedes Benz Stadium turf with a championship trophy in their hands.
They deserve it. And I thank you, Maurice Robinson, for setting such a powerful example.
Gabriel Stovall is the proud sports editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.