Depending on the coin toss and a couple of other factors, it’s quite possible that, shortly after 12 p.m. Saturday, Nebraska football signee Wandale Robinson will return the All-American Bowl’s opening kickoff at the Alamo Dome.
Robinson, the do-everything threat from Frankfort, Kentucky, is one of three Husker signees playing in the nationally televised high school all-star game and, based on reports, he’s been used in a variety of ways as the teams practiced this week in San Antonio.
Not 48 hours after the game, Robinson will be off on another adventure: the first day of college classes at Nebraska.
That makes for a whirlwind week-plus around New Year’s Day for Robinson, similar to what quarterback Adrian Martinez did last year in traveling from his hometown of Fresno, California, to Florida for the Under Armour All-America Game and then to Lincoln to begin class.
“It’s crazy to think about, but I’ve known about this ever since I was a sophomore that I’d be leaving in December of my senior year and going to whatever school I chose,” Robinson told the Journal Star late last month. “I’ve been looking forward to it, but it’s also crazy at the same time.”
Robinson isn’t alone in San Antonio, and he won’t be alone in arriving in Lincoln, either.
Two fellow NU signees — defensive lineman Ty Robinson and offensive lineman Bryce Benhart — are also playing in the All-American Bowl, as is one of the Huskers’ top remaining 2019 recruiting targets in defensive back Noa Pola-Gates.
Amidst a collection of dozens of the nation’s highest-touted high school recruits, the four with clear ties to the Huskers have each impressed in their own rights.
“With Bryce Benhart and Ty Robinson, neither one of those guys had ever been to an event like this and hadn’t been to even the regional camps that you see a lot of the top prospects in the country go to,” HuskerOnline and Rivals recruiting analyst Nate Clouse said. “When it came time to do the 1-on-1s for instance, they’d never really done that before. For those guys to go basically from just competing against their own teammates in high school and then obviously the competition on Friday nights to going into a setting like that against the best of the best, elite-level players across the country … I think they both did a tremendous job.”
The week of practice did nothing to slow down the excitement around Wandale Robinson, either.
“The one question about Wandale that I’ve gotten is that he looks great on film, but what kind of competitor does he play against? And he didn’t play against the greatest competition in Kentucky — probably compare it to Class B or C-1 in Nebraska — but I’ve seen him at two different high-profile events against elite-level competition and he is absolutely been a top performer at both. Especially this past week. …
“He’s got major burst and I feel like he’s up to top speed in two or three steps. His acceleration — everything he does is really, really smooth and he makes it look effortless. He gets up to speed quickly and his short-area quickness is off the charts. He’s a load to handle.”
Not only are the three signees a good showcase for NU, but they’ve had a chance to peer recruit Pola-Gates, arguably the Huskers’ top remaining recruiting target. Pola-Gates is set to announce his decision Jan. 19 at the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii and then sign in February, and he told the Journal Star his final three includes NU, USC and Arizona State. Pola-Gates roomed with fellow Arizona native Ty Robinson all week in San Antonio, a dream situation for the Husker coaching staff.
“(The players) have been very vocal about the fact that they’re recruiting Noa very hard,” Clouse said. “A lot of times when you talk to guys about peer recruiting they (downplay it). These guys have been very vocal about, ‘We’re pushing hard and we’re going to do whatever we can to get him.’ I think that’s been really big for Nebraska.”
Ty Robinson and Benhart are both set to graduate from high school this spring and then enroll — Benhart is trying to win a heavyweight wrestling state championship in Minnesota currently for Lakeville North High — but Wandale Robinson is headed straight to NU as an early enrollee.
There, he’ll join a half-dozen other freshmen — an in-state trio of linebacker Nick Henrich, tight end Chris Hickman and outside linebacker Garrett Nelson; Oklahoma wide receiver Jamie Nance; Colorado quarterback Luke McCaffrey; and Houston defensive lineman Brant Banks — as newcomers for winter conditioning and spring football.
“I’m just ready to start playing,” Robinson said. “I’ve been working for this ever since I was 5 and I’ve always wanted to be able to play college football. Now that it’s here, it’s really exciting to see that everything I’ve done has paid off.”