Robbins accepts late offer from Liberty University
As high school football players around the country signed letters of intent during Wednesday’s National Signing Day, Sevier County star linebacker Dexter Robbins waited.
With no offers coming in, the 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker was unsure where he’d continue his football career — which has been remarkable during the past seasons with the Smoky Bears.
Then the phone rang.
It was Carl Torbush, linebackers coach of the Liberty University Flames, and the team’s head coach Turner Gill.
The pair was offering Robbins a chance to join the Flames’ 2013 class.
“It was exciting, and it was unexpected also,” Robbins said. “It was a huge surprise for me. Earlier they’d told us it wasn’t going happen, and I wasn’t expecting it, so it was a huge surprise for me. A very wonderful experience.”
Robbins had long been interested in Liberty — an NCAA Division-I FCS team in the Big South Conference — and it had long been interested in him.
“It started out (last year) with them saying that they didn’t know yet but they were looking to offer me,” Robbins explained. “Then they called me in December and said, “Hey we can’t offer, we’re not looking for a linebacker this year.’ And I thought it was over with.
“But Signing Day gets here and they called me said, ‘Hey, we’ve found a slot for you and we want to offer.’ “
It didn’t take the Sevier County Defensive Player of the Year and All-State selection long to accept.
“They called me (at around 7 p.m.), offered a scholarship, and I committed,” Robbins said.
Robbins’ reasons for loving the program are two-fold.
First of all, they play a good brand of football and have eyes on moving to Division-I FBS — college football’s highest level — soon.
And secondly, they’ve got a structured environment that lends itself to a successful academic experience.
“The atmosphere (is great),” Robbins said. “And just knowing you’re going to good there academically. They will make sure that you succeed.”
Robbins — whose father, Allen, was a player on University of the Cumberlands’ inaugural football team in Williamsburg, Ky., and older brother Jake now plays with UC, has always dreamed of following in those family footsteps.
“I’ve always dreamed about college football, but when it really set in for me that I was going to play somewhere was when my dad went to the 25th reunion of his alma mater,” he said. “The experience I saw with him and his old friends motivated me to want to try to make those kind of memories, so that in the years to come I can show my children those memories.”
Though Robbins is very athletically gifted, it wasn’t an easy road to college football for him. He had to battle two fronts to get there — size obstacles and injuries.
“Sophomore year I had to face a lot of injuries — a broken back, a broken wrist — and I lost a lot of weight, got weak, and it motivated me to want to work harder. I worked my tail off all throughout summer and the winter,” he said.
“After my junior year, and the (All-District) performance I had, I wanted to get better. That’s when I put on 30 pounds, to 210, and still ran a 4.4.”
That helped Robbins put up massive numbers in 2012 (145 tackles, three sacks, 20 tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown) which led to an all-state selection.
Normally those numbers alone would catch any college coach’s eye, but there was another issue playing against Robbins, his height.
“The only thing he couldn’t control was a couple of inches (of height),” SCHS coach Steve Brewer said. “If he was 6-foot-2 with all that he’s done, (he would have been a prized recruit). But Dexter can do two things you can’t teach: He can run, and he will hit. The rest is up to the coaches to teach.”
Wednesday night, Coach Gill and Liberty decided to take a chance on Robbins, and it’s a leap of faith he’s hoping to repay soon.
“(I’m going to) get bigger, stronger and faster and get myself prepared for the challenge that I’m about to face,” Robbins said. “It’s going to be a different ballgame. It’s Division I level, and I’m ready and prepared to make it happen.”