The two all-county players that split time on both sides of the ball this season were just happy to be playing football at the next level standing next to a recently retired head coach that worked tirelessly to get them there.
“You could say a lot of people dropped the ball on these guys,” Mike Brill said. “I’ve spent 30 years trying to find out what colleges look for and it’s always a different answer. All I know is these two kids are great players and great individuals. Like I told Winston-Salem State a couple years ago when they signed four of my kids, there are guys you sign based on potential and football knowledge and these guys have both.”
Flanked by family members, Robinson pulled a blue and yellow A&T cap down to his eyes and gave it a symmetrical bend. The tedious recruiting process that took off just after a playoff loss to Jack Britt in November was finally over.
“The next step is to better my life,” Robinson said. “A&T is a great school with a great environment. It seemed to be the best fit for me compared to Catawba, Emory & Henry and Bridgewater (College).”
UNCP was one of a few programs to offer Smith, a fellow Wing-T running back in Brill’s offensive attack.
“To be the best you have to compete against the best,” Smith said. “They had really nice facilities and a nice campus. I’m excited.”
Smith was recruited by UNCP assistant Steve Saulnier to play in the secondary. He lined up at several positions during his senior season for the Pirates with starts at linebacker, safety and running back. Smith was one of the team’s leading tacklers as an all-county defensive back with 73 stops.
“The kid can play and the sky is the limit for him,” Brill said. “Whether it’s coming off the edge or in coverage, he’s a talented individual.”
Robinson rushed for 2,610 yards and 29 touchdowns during a four-year career and overcame several nagging injuries his senior season. He picked up a career-high 263 yards on 27 carries in a rain-soaked opener before finishing with a 176-yard effort against one of the top rush defenses in the state at Jack Britt.
“A&T needed a running back and he has a lot of ability,” Brill said. “He already has the speed for the next level, he just needs to get bigger to take the pounding.”
“They’re grades first, athletics second kind of kids and the Lumberton staff is really proud of these guys,” said Tripp Satterwhite, Lumberton’s athletic director.
A third Pirate, Robeson County Defensive Player of the Year Mac McGill, could make his pledge by the end of the month. He is considering Tusculum, Allegheny College (Pa.) and Emory & Henry (Va.).
“I’m waiting it out, there’s no rush,” McGill said. “I’m going to stay overnight at Allegheny soon and I’ve already visited Tusculum.”