A Look Back at Allen Robinson’s Road to Success
When you think of Allen Robinson today, you think Biletnikoff Award finalist, NFL prospect, and record-breaking receiver. You’d assume that he was a blue-chip prospect swimming in scholarship offers coming out of high school, but what you might not realize is that Robinson had to earn his success the hard way.
Buffalo, Minnesota, and Toledo are far from powerhouse football schools. Two are in the MAC, while Minnesota was a middle of the pack Big Ten school. What Penn State and those three schools have in common is that they were the only ones to offer Robinson a scholarship.
In a heralded 2010 recruiting class headlined by Jadeveon Clowney, names like Sammy Watkins, Jaxon Shipley, and Ty Montgomery highlighted the group of wideouts. Robinson was just another player among the hundreds, a receiver from St. Mary’s Preperatory School in Orchard Lake, Michigan that easily could have been lost in the fray.
He was listed as a two-star prospect by ESPN and a three-star prospect by Rivals despite his impressive physique and solid high school stats. Robinson caught 44 passes for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns his senior year under head coach George Porritt at St. Mary’s.
During his recruitment, few coaches had extensive contact with Robinson. Penn State linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden pressed harder than anybody to land Robinson, which ultimately sold him on coming to Happy Valley as a part of what would be Joe Paterno’s final recruiting class.
Coming to Penn State reunited Robinson with high school teammate Robert Bolden. Despite entering a seemingly perfect situation for the young wide receiver, Robinson still found himself buried on the depth chart. Spring ball allowed him to earn a prominent reserve role during the 2011 season, but it was still just that, a reserve role. Finishing with three catches for 29 yards in 12 games gave Robinson an unimpressive first season, as he didn’t see the field very often. That would change immensely after just one offseason.
“I remember we went out on the practice field the first time I was here, and he was a big guy, a fast guy, a bright-eyed guy, and a competitive guy,” Bill O’Brien said. “He was raw. He hadn’t played a lot before I got here because he was a freshman so he was raw, but you could tell right away that he was going to be a really good, really explosive player.”
Injuries ravaged the Penn State offense in 2012 and O’Brien thrust Robinson into the spotlight. To say he thrived would be an understatement. With Matt McGloin at the helm, Robinson earned first team All-Big Ten and Richter-Howard receiver of the year accolades. 77 receptions, 1,013 yards and 11 touchdown catches shattered records set by his predecessors. Included in this highlight-reel season was a 10 catch, 197 yard, and three touchdown field day against Indiana. This breakout season garnered Robinson national attention and vaulted him onto the NFL radar.
As cliché as the metaphor may be, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” applies perfectly to Robinson’s story as the under-the-radar high school recruit has blossomed into a nationally recognized star. He has made the journey from an overlooked, undervalued prospect to Biletnikoff award finalist projected to go in the early rounds of the NFL Draft.
The lingering questions that may have existed about Robinson coming out of high school were erased in just one season. Everybody knew what Allen Robinson can do on the field, and through ten games this season he has been spectacular, even better than he was in during his breakout 2012 campaign.
“He is a very smart guy,” O’Brien said. “He’s very football smart and he’s very smart off the field. He’s just an intelligent guy. He really worked hard this offseason to improve his individual skill set and he’s taken his game to the next level.”
Against the Golden Gophers — ironically enough, since they offered him a scholarship — Robinson moved past Bobby Engram and set Penn State’s single-season receiving record. One week later, he broke his own single-season receptions record against Purdue with two games left to play. With Nebraska and Wisconsin still on the schedule, Robinson has 81 receptions for 1,204 yards and six touchdowns.
“You have to give him a lot credit,” O’Brien said. “He’s worked at it. I think he’s in a good system for what we do, but he’s done a great job and he’s gone up and made a lot of fantastic plays for us the last two seasons.”
When Allen Robinson spurned the likes of Buffalo and Toledo to become a Nittany Lion, nobody knew the type of player he would become. The success he has achieved is a testament to his business-like approach to the game. With one year of eligibility remaining, Robinson has the option of staying, but his performance this year has NFL scouts already drooling. Regardless of if Robinson goes pro or not, he has certainly left his mark as one of the best players to ever wear blue and white.