For a few months we’ve been told how true freshman wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson was going to get the chance to have the football in his hands this season — as a kick returner, running back and receiver — because he makes the coaches say, “Wow,” when he does, and it was quickly there for everyone to see on Saturday.
To start the game Nebraska received the kickoff, and it was Robinson who was there to return it, going for 11 yards. Then, as the starting receiver, he was the ball carrier on the first play from scrimmage, rushing for 2 more. Robinson was doing what we’d been told he would.
And when the game was over and Nebraska had beaten South Alabama 35-21, it was Robinson -- not Dedrick Mills or JD Spielman -- who led the Huskers in all-purpose yards with 131.
Robinson had 77 yards on kickoff returns, including one for 39 yards. Robinson also gained 33 yards receiving and 21 yards rushing.
His four carries included gains of 10 and 7 yards. His receptions went for 15, 12 and 6.
And it all wasn’t much of a surprise to him.
“I expected to do that,” Robinson said. “I go into every week knowing that I’m going to do a lot of different things from running back, receiver, kick return specialist. I expect to do whatever I have to do every week. So however much they throw at me I feel like I can take it all in.”
Robinson graduated from high school early and took part in spring football practice. He came to Nebraska after being a record-setting football player at Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Kentucky. As a senior he had 45 total touchdowns.
The moment wasn’t too big so early in his Husker career because he’s been preparing for it for most of his life, Robinson said.
“I’ve always had eyes on me from the moment that I started playing football,” he said. “Especially back home a lot of people knew who I was, and the whole state kind of knew who I was (during) my high school career. It’s just being ready to come out and play football and do the same things that I’ve done since I was 5.”
Robinson didn’t play in the Red-White Spring Game due to an injury. He admitted he was nervous going out for the first kickoff.
“It felt like it was taking about 30 minutes for that kickoff to come down,” Robinson said. “I was good after that. I was like, ‘It’s just time to play football, the same thing I’ve been doing since I was 5 years old.’”
Being able to play multiple positions sounds more complicated to those on the outside than it is for Robinson. Some days he goes to position meetings with the wide receivers, and then catches up later with running backs coach Ryan Held. Other days he goes with the running backs.
“I feel like it’s pretty easy, honestly,” Robinson said. “I did the same thing in high school, so I feel like it hasn’t been much of a big transition for me to do that. I know exactly what I have to do. Whenever I go play running back, and I know what I have to do when I play receiver, too. I feel like it’s very, very easy to transition.”
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost said if the Huskers would have stayed on offense longer on Saturday, Robinson would have gotten more chances to show what he can do.
“I thought Wan’Dale did some pretty special things when he had the ball in his hands, and we’ll keep looking to get that done,” Frost said.