Perhaps that explains why Robinson runs so doggone hard on every play. In addition to carrying 99 percent of Iowa’s rushing attack on his shoulders, the former Des Moines Lincoln standout also carries the weight of a city on his back.
Robinson wants to show that good football players can come from Des Moines and not just from the surrounding suburbs, where schools such as West Des Moines Dowling and West Des Moines Valley have long dominated the city schools.
“It was tough getting recruited out of Des Moines,” Robinson said Tuesday. “A lot of colleges overlook Des Moines and when they do look at Des Moines, they look at the West Des Moines Valleys and a lot of the suburb schools.
“But I think getting to where I am right now, coming from a Des Moines school, I hope it gives kids from Des Moines hope and faith that they can make it, too, if they work hard. It was definitely a tough road, but I’m glad I took it.”
Where Robinson is right now as the Big Ten’s fourth leading rusher is a far cry from where all the recruiting experts figured he would be at this stage.
Even the Iowa coaches had some reservations about Robinson because they didn’t offer him a scholarship until somebody else backed out of one late in the recruiting process.
The original plan was to have Robinson pay his way to Iowa for one semester before being put on scholarship, a process known as gray-shirting.
These days the former gray-shirt recruit now wears a red shirt during practice, which means he isn’t supposed to be tackled, because Robinson is too important to the team to risk being injured.
It’s hard to picture Iowa competing for a Big Ten title without Robinson playing a starring role.
But it’s easy to see why Robinson would have a chip on his shoulder because it seems like no matter what he does, somebody else supposedly does it better or gets more recognition.
He even had to deal with it in high school while his more-celebrated teammate Jordan Bernstine had colleges from all over the country chasing after him before he picked Iowa.
Many assumed Bernstine, a defensive back, would help to put Des Moines on the map with his success at Iowa, but injuries so far have prevented that from happening.
Robinson led Iowa in rushing last season as a redshirt freshman, but often was overshadowed by true freshman Brandon Wegher, with whom he shared the running back position.
And now with Iowa preparing to face Wisconsin on Saturday, Robinson has to play second fiddle to Wisconsin’s two-headed monster at running back, junior John Clay and true freshman James White.
“I’m just thankful to be in the position I’m in,” Robinson said. “John Clay and James White are great backs. So they deserve all the credit and accolades that they get.
“But I’m just more concerned about helping the Hawkeyes. I’m not worried about what anybody else on the outside thinks about me.”
That’s not entirely true.
Robinson cares a great deal about what the people in his hometown think about him. He wants to make them proud and also motivate the younger kids to give football a shot.
He helped to make Lincoln a playoff team in high school, but none of the five schools from Des Moines have won a state title and most of them rarely make the postseason or finish with winning records.
It’s also rare for a player from Des Moines to earn a scholarship to a major college.
“It might just be because kids get caught up in other things,” Robinson said when asked why the Des Moines schools struggle so much in football. “They don’t stay focused on sports. I know there are a lot of other things to do.
“It might just be a lack of desire or something like that.”
Or it could just be that some patterns are hard to break.
That’s why Robinson’s success at Iowa is so important because you have to start somewhere.
There could be a bunch of kids living in Des Moines right now that are determined to make names for themselves in football because of what Robinson does each Saturday.
Robinson can’t make it happen by himself. But he can make others want to follow in his footsteps because it’s easier to see yourself doing something extraordinary when somebody of a similar ilk does it before you.
But it’s not just what Robinson does on the playing field that’s worth emulating. How he goes about his business on a daily basis is something that kids from any town should try to follow.
“He’s very humble,” Iowa fullback Brad Rogers said of Robinson. “I tease him all the time about it. I always call him a superstar and he walks away because he hates hearing it.”
The people from Des Moines should love hearing it.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football