Football Feature Friday: Robinson Last Line of Defense
ALBANY, N.Y. – Like most defensive backs, University at Albany cornerback Jamal Robinson, who will be a senior in the fall, picks and chooses what he stores in his memory bank. Sometimes, it doesn't pay to have total recall.
“When you are a cornerback at this level, or even in the NFL, you've got to have a short-term memory,” said the 5-foot-9 178-pounder from DeMatha High School. “When you make a mistake back there, it might cost your team a touchdown. Sure, you've got to know how you got beat on a play, but then you've got to make quick corrections. Most importantly, don't let it happen again.”
Robinson knows that he's one of the last lines of defense against opponents' breakaway runs or long pass plays. He needs to rely on his outstanding speed, but also his ability read a quarterback's eyes or a receiver's change in pass routes. Quick adjustments are mandatory.
Last season, when the Great Danes' defense played a huge role in their 7-4 record, Robinson was one of the top performers. He was sixth on the team in total tackles with 53, and he also intercepted two passes to go along with nine pass deflections and seven pass breakups. UAlbany was one of the best teams in the Colonial Athletic Association in forcing turnovers with 17 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.
The native of Mitchellville, Md. noted that UAlbany's aggressive defensive philosophy, beginning in practice, was a major reason for all of the forced turnovers. “The defensive coaches really put a big emphasis on creating turnovers,” Robinson said. “Every day, we have drills for causing turnovers. The coaches set goals for the amount of turnovers we create every day. Every play is unique, but sometimes you can get a turnover with a big hit or a tipped pass. Sometimes, the offense simply makes a mistake on the play, and you can take advantage. The big thing is that when you get an opportunity to get a turnover, you must take advantage of it and capitalize.”
Robinson pointed out that defensive backs, no matter how big or small they are, must be able to play several roles defending the pass or the run. “Our coaches emphasize to us that we must be able to play deep and still keep track of the guys in front of you,” he said.
The criminal justice major intercepted 11 passes, including two for a touchdown, and recovered seven fumbles at DeMatha, where he was the team's Defensive MVP. He even blocked two field goals and a punt as a senior.
As a rookie at UAlbany, Robinson made 48 tackles, broke up eight passes, and also intercepted a pass against Richmond. He followed that up with 58 tackles, six pass breakups and a forced fumble as a junior, when he was named to the CAA All-Academic Team for the second straight season.
Cornerbacks coach Nick Sanchez appreciates the overachieving Robinson. "He's not the biggest, strongest or fastest CB that we have, but he will be a four-year starter for us," Sanchez said. "His best skills are his competitiveness, toughness, knowledge of the game and his will to win."
UAlbany head coach Greg Gattuso considers Robinson the leader of his talented secondary. “Jamal is definitely a leader. He's probably been one of the leaders of our secondary right along,” Gattuso said. “He's been a rock for us back there.”
Sanchez agrees. "He's been a leader by example guy for us throughout his career," Sanchez said. "His teammates respect him because he does things the right way. He works hard on and off the field, knows his assignments, has good grades, plays through pain, and is a good player for us in the CAA. As a senior, we expect to see him step out and be more of a vocal leader on the team."
“I just want to do my job and help my team accomplish its goals, which mainly have to do with winning the game. That's a good enough day for me,” Robinson said.
UAlbany football season tickets are now on sale for the 2017 season. Prices start as low as $75. For more information, visit ualbanysports.com/tickets or call the UAlbany ticket office directly at 518-442-DANE.