When freshman slotback Tyrell Robinson decided to commit to Army football, he, nor his family, knew much about West Point. But the genuineness of the coaching staff and the discipline displayed by the program was more than enough to convince him to buy in.
Robinson, along with his older brother Trevor, spent their younger years in Long Island, New York before moving to Dallas, Georgia. He’s a product of the East Paulding Raiders, which was ranked in the top 20 for most victories in the last 20 years among Class 6A schools in the state. Since 2006, they’ve been the Sweet 16 of Georgia’s state playoffs eight times.
Robinson dabbled in baseball, but it was his older brother’s influence that helped sparked his interest in football
“We’re very close... It’s just it’s kind of hard right now not being able to go hang out with him,” said Robinson. “We we train together, we do a lot together.”
Trevor played high school football at Alma Public Schools. Now, he’s a midfielder for Reinhardt University’s soccer team. Still, it was football that stuck for the younger of the two.
“I grew up watching him play football with the Alma Cardinals in Long Island,” says Robinson. “I used to I look up to my brother like, with everything he does.”
By the time recruiting season came around, Robinson said most of the process communicating with the staff at West Point, and other coaches, was a “blur.”
“It was during baseball season, it was like right in the middle of like the transition from football to baseball... I’m not gonna say a lot, but a good bit of coaches came in and they came in they sounded like they wanted me to come,” said Robinson, who also had offers from Air Force and Illinois State.
It was his official visit to West Point that helped seal the deal for the rookie. Veterans like A.J. Howard, Brandon Walters and others are helping him adjust to West Point way of life.
“They all welcomed me with like open open arms and took me under their wing and taught me all the plays and the right steps and the right way to do everything,” said Robinson. “So I’m just trying to keep up the work with everything.”
Like other teams, COVID-19 slightly delayed Army’s football season but Robinson followed up and stayed in touch with other players, working out at home when he could and picking up a a new hobby — video games.
“I played Call of Duty... Modern Warfare maybe,” he said.
Robinson wasn’t much of a gamer before the pandemic started but he began playing alongside some other friends from West Point Prep to pass the time. Now, he doesn’t have much time for video games.
“It’s a place where you have to put your nose in the books and stick your head down and just grind and not many people know that until they come here,” Robinson said. “Everybody says that they grind but coming here is an actual grind.”
Robinson has instead pivoted his focus to strictly academics and football. In Army’s first two games of the year — the first two of Robinson’s collegiate career — he’s excelled and been a pleasant surprise weapon for the Black Knights.
In Army’s season-opener, a 42-0 shutout against MTSU, Robinson came away with 94 rushing yards on nine carries. One of those runs was for 37 yards. He also ran a kick back 15 yards.
“Through camp and watching him play in the scrimmages, I knew he was special and would bring something special to this offense,” Army fullback Sandon McCoy said of Robinson. “He is a really hard runner.”
Despite the fanfare, Robinson was modest about his debut performance.
“It was just great to celebrate for that day,” he said. “ I was just ready to get on to the next game.”
He impressed the following week too. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound slotback got more opportunities to shine. On a pitch play against Louisiana-Monroe, he shook a defender out of his boots and gained 24 yards.
While it’s still early in the season, Robinson is one of the leading rushers on the team 12 carries for 120 yards, a per-carry average of 10 yards. Army head coach Jeff Monken has called him a “lightning bolt.”
“He is fast and quick, and I think a really good player,” Monken said. “Hopefully he will improve and he will continue to get better. I think he’s got a great future ahead of him... I’m excited he is on our team. There are things he can improve on for sure, but it was a great start.”
When asked about those opportunities for improvement, Robinson says he has a few challenges on the field.
“I think the coaches yell at me a lot for not locking the ball in all the way into the tuck” he said. “The plays, I was struggling with at first as well... When I first moved into varsity, it was a lot more plays added on and it was a lot more fundamentals, but I’m getting the hang of it.”
Along with analyzing film, Robinson explains “watching everybody’s reps, not just my reps” has been a key to getting better over the season.
While it’s unclear how the rest of Army’s schedule will unfold, the Black Knights have rallied around rookies like him to ensure he succeeds on and off the field in the “bubble” that is West Point.
“They’ve been teaching me just smile a lot,” Robinson said. Just find the fun in every little day. You’re in a environment where it’s so serious, where you have to be serious most of the day, just smile anytime you get the chance and laugh anytime you get the chance.”
If Robinson’s highlights and dazzling runs help Army win a few more games, he’ll have plenty to smile about this season.