To play football at the college level takes an extreme amount of talent, commitment and fortitude.
Many young athletes dedicate themselves to the sport for years, picking up the game at the youth level and continuing to play until senior year of high school rolls around. At this point, an athlete may very well have played for about half of his or her young life before not having the talent to compete at the next level becomes a reality.
Colorado State sophomore linebacker Kiel Robinson was able to reach the college level with just four years of competitive football experience.
“I’ve been playing sports since I was just a little kid,” Robinson said. “Baseball, football, basketball, running track – all that stuff.”
But, when did he strap on the pads and compete in real action for the first time?
“Not ’till my freshman year of high school,” Robinson said.
Now, in his first year as a starter for the Rams, the San Marcos, California native is following in the footsteps of his talented family. His mother, Synthia, played volleyball at Pepperdine and his father, David, played football for the USC Trojans.
His grandfather was also a very talented man to say the very least. Often referred to as “The Genius,” Robinson’s grandfather is 25-time Grammy Award winner Ray Charles Robinson, better known as Ray Charles.
“I didn’t really spend a lot of time with him, but I’ve met him a few times and I remember going to one of his concerts,” Robinson said. “It was really fun to just be around him, talking with him, and him treating me like his grandson.”
While Robinson holds those memories close – he said he used to be good on the piano himself – he wants to make a name for himself on the football field, and not be known simply as Ray’s grandson.
His teammates and coaches have taken notice of his commitment and his abilities.
“He’s got speed, Kiel is a very fast guy,” junior linebacker Deonte Clyburn said. “He’s very smart too, he can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. He can make up for things with his speed, he’s a good guy and a good player.”
Despite missing the Rocky Mountain Showdown due to a concussion, Robinson has been able to make an impact for CSU’s defense this year. In his four games of action, he has 25 tackles (fifth-best on the team), including two sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss.
First year head coach Mike Bobo liked what he saw in Robinson as soon as he got a look at him in spring camp. Whenever Bobo was asked about who could possibly replace last year’s leading tacklers Aaron Davis and Max Morgan, it was Robinson’s name that was consistently brought up.
“Kiel is a guy that can run, he is extremely fast,” Bobo said. “He’s a guy that will play out in our field-backer, which sometimes we substitute at nickel, and he’s talented enough to play out there when we don’t have to go nickel defense, which is a good thing.”
The frame of the six-foot-two-inch, 225-pounder makes his speed that much more noticeable. It makes sense – Robinson has been outrunning opposing athletes for years.
“It started in basketball in probably sixth grade, when I was playing rec ball and I noticed that I actually had speed and its been a big part of my sports career since then,” Robinson said.
He also knows that having that quickness at his size and his position can set him apart from others.
“It’s very helpful because even if I’m out leveraged, I’m still able to get there and make a play,” Robinson said. “I can cover receivers, it just helps me be very versatile out there.”
Being a sophomore, Robinson has plenty of time to keep building on what he has done on the field this year.
“He’s still young,” Bobo said. “Young kid… first year starting, first year playing. (He’s) improving.”
Robinson knows he is still young and recognizes his opportunity to grow. He hopes to one day play at the next level in the NFL.
“I’m excited for the rest of this season and my two upcoming years,” Robinson said. “It’s only my sophomore year, but I’m going to keep working the rest of this year, my junior year, and my senior year to get there.”
As of now, Robinson – just like the rest of the Rams – is focusing primarily on the upcoming conference powerhouse Boise State. The Broncos are defending their 2014 Mountain West championship and have a national-best 107-10 record in conference games since the start of the 2000 season.
“We need to play like were supposed to,” Robinson said. “We’ve got to be physically sound, we’ve go to know our assignments – no mistakes. We know they are a physical team and don’t make a lot of mistakes on offense, so we just have to play at our highest level.”
Collegian Football Reporter Geoff Huebner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Huebnermedia93.