The recruiting website 247sports already lists Florida’s Antonio Robinson, Jr. as the No. 1 high school recruit in Kentucky, even though he just arrived in the state a few short weeks ago.
All eyes are on the son of former Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Robinson, Sr., and there is a lot of speculation as to what high school program he will choose.
It’s a lot of pressure, but he appears unfazed, poised and ready for the year ahead. He’s keeping his cards close to his chest on his decision, but one thing’s for sure: He is ready to go.
When asked about that pressure, he said, “Well, it’s really not a lot of pressure because I’ve already decided what college I’m going to. And, I know how to play football, so that part is going to be easy.”
He plans to attend Wake Forest University in North Carolina. With that settled, he can enjoy his senior year playing high school football wherever he lands.
A family legacy
Robinson, Jr. has been around football all his life. Although he was too young to travel much during his father’s NFL career, he followed along closely. He grew up in Florida living with his mom and siblings, mostly watching his father’s games on television, but expressed a strong interest in the game early on, his father said.
Robinson Sr. said the first time his son asked about learning to play football, he took him through a workout, but it was too much for the youngster. At the time, he told his son, “you’re just not ready.” Buy only a few years later, he said, things had changed dramatically.
“He started playing at the age of 9,” Robinson Sr. said. “That’s when he overcame his fear of working out and getting tired and feeling like his lungs would pop out. Ever since then he’s shown me he was ready to play, and he started working out seriously. The rest is history.”
That history has grown from elementary school through junior high to high school, where Robinson Jr. has made a name for himself as a star cornerback for Florida Christian High School in the Miami-Coral Gables area. An all-round athlete, he also played baseball and was on the track team.
Robinson Sr. joined the school’s coaching staff, and so the two Robinsons have had the rare opportunity to work together as the younger Robinson builds his own legacy.
Joining his dad
The Robinsons said their move to Kentucky was all about timing and opportunity. In particular, Robinson Sr. has come to join his longtime friend Jordan Nevels to serve as a speed coach for Nevels Fitness, a high-end sports training and fitness facility poised to open this fall in Newport.
“The only reason we’re here is Nevels,” Robinson Sr. said. “He’s really the reason we moved to Kentucky. I loved my time at Florida Christian and all of my athletes. But I had an opportunity to be a part of a world-class gym and Christian brand and bless athletes all over the world with the gift God has given me. I couldn’t pass this opportunity up.”
Nevels and Robinson Sr. go way back to their college days playing together at Nicholls State University in Louisiana.
“Antonio and I met back in 2008,” Nevels said. “At that time I used to see Junior running around campus. He was about 3. Fast forward 15 years later, and Antonio has since gone on with his career with the Green Bay Packers and winning a Super Bowl. And, his son has since then grown into one of the top players in the country.”
Nevels said he knew he wanted to work with Robinson Sr. in his new facility.
“Antonio is one of the top speed coaches in the country,” Nevels said. “With he and I having that friendship over many years, with this facility in Newport about to open, we thought it would be a God-given opportunity to have him come to the area…Antonio fits right into the mold of what we are trying to build here.”
Robinson Sr. said he was happy where he was but could not pass up the opportunity.
“I was a high school coach down in Miami,” Robinson Sr. said. “I was able to coach my son since eighth grade. That’s definitely been a blessing to be able to do that. Now that he is going into his senior year, I thought maybe I’ll make the move. I wanted to come here to join Nevels Fitness. This is something where my schedule is more flexible — and I get to train athletes from all across the world.”
One of those athletes will be his son, who said he was looking forward to this year as well.
“I was ready for a change, and I wanted to come here for my dad and Nevels to help them build this gym and get it running,” he said.
A book in the works
Despite his family talent and background, the road has not been completely smooth for Robinson Jr. Some said he was too undersized to play football, but he proved them wrong, his father said.
He said what Jr. had to overcome was not so much physical as it was mental.
“Just believing in himself,” Robinson Sr. said. “Mental and I’d say spiritual as well… coaches doubting you, players doubting you.”
Robinson Jr. has written some about his challenges, and his father said he may be quiet, but he’s an impressive writer with a lot to say. In fact, he encouraged his son to share his story with others by writing a book and sharing his story through social media. They are working on that project now.
From his days in the NFL and in college, Robinson Sr. said he feels it’s important for a player to control and own his or her own narrative and tell their own story, especially with access to social media today.
Listen and be patient
Robinson Jr. is reticent, not a big talker. He said so far his impression of Northern Kentucky is it’s a slower pace than Miami, but he likes the river and just being able to hang out and enjoy the calm before what promises to be an intense year ahead.
He did have some advice for other young players:
“I’d say you got to listen,” Robinson Jr. said. “You got to trust the process and be patient. Sometimes things won’t go your way, but sometimes you gotta just sit there in your pain, you gotta take it. You have to work hard. It could be people doubting you, but if you put in the work, it shows.”
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