Up Close

<B>Dominic Robinson </b> entered this season with plenty of expectations following a solid spring. However, a hamstring injury suffered in preseason drills hampered Robinson's production and confidence. Following a poor performance against Miami, including a key drop, many wondered if Robinson would be a key contributor this season. Of course, Robinson finished the regular-season strongly, saving his best performance for last against Florida. Now D-Rob is looking forward to the rematch vs. UM.

Here's a Q & A with Dominic Robinson.

Is there anything about you that people don't really know?

"Honestly, I had a time where I had a choice, to start gangbanging with my cousins – one of them got stabbed, and had just got out of the hospital when I went home this past weekend. I went to see him, and he had just been stabbed by some gang members. I had a chance to run with them – two cousins in jail, one just got stabbed – or I could have taken the sports route. I had just started playing football at that time, and it was my freshman year in high school. I had to make that decision, and here I am. That's the only thing that people may look at me and not know about who I am."

What was your reaction when you found out you'd be going to the Orange Bowl, instead of the Rose or Fiesta?

"I was shocked. I really was shocked. I was at home, on my way back, and I had talked to everybody and been like ‘Fiesta or Rose, Fiesta or Rose.' Everybody wanted to know, ‘Are you going to the Orange Bowl?' ‘No, no, no. It's not the Orange Bowl. It's going to be Fiesta or Rose.' So when I heard it, I got the phone call, I checked my messages, and I thought somebody was joking with me. I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. The initial shock really got me. But by the time I got back into Tallahassee, it was exciting to me, because I knew we were going to get another shot at a team I hadn't beaten, a team that I felt like beat us, and we were better than them. I felt that. Ever since we lost to them the first time (in October of this year) I wanted them again, and now we're going to get it."

Jeff Bowden said that the two of you had a parting of confidence following your drop in the Miami game earlier this year. How much does that fuel you wanting to do well against them this time, especially coming off your performance against Florida?

"Not much, because of the fact that I'm self-motivated. Not that JB's not a good coach or anything, but I don't need any coach to have confidence or lose confidence in me in order for me to play well. I knew that I should have made that play. I knew that I'm more than capable of making the big play, and I dropped one. It just so happened to be at a bad time, when our team really needed it. I messed up, I take responsibility for it, but I don't need anybody to have confidence in me."

From your perspective, how much would you like to have that pass back?

"Bad. But I learned a lot from it. It's something that I had been dealing with up to that game, and it's funny how it happened. Earlier in that week, I noticed that I wasn't looking the ball in – I was looking away as the ball was getting there. And I've done that, really, my whole life. Sure enough, in the Miami game, the ball gets there, I look away, and with the wet conditions, I drop it. That definitely was something that was really sticking with me. Looking back, I wish I'd made the play."

Looking back, does that one negative play overshadow all the positive things you've done?

"Probably. That's probably it. Being that I'm from California, people don't really get to see a lot of Dominic Robinson on the West Coast. So when I go home, or I get phone calls, almost everybody's like, ‘Hey man, I saw you play – it was the Miami game. What happened?' Everybody's like, ‘I saw you play this year. What happened?' Because they don't see the whole season. They see one or two games. So that was the one play that they saw, and it seems like everybody saw that one play. They didn't see the two catches I had earlier in the game, or anything after that. They didn't see the Florida game. They just seemed to see that one play. So it was definitely hard for me, due to the fact that I'm aware that I missed a big play. I missed a chance."

How tough were the weeks following the Miami game?

"It wasn't too hard, because I know I'm a player. You can go and look through anybody – you don't just see draft tapes all the time. It's not just highlights. If you go through and watch anybody's film, you'll see they got drops. I mean, Michael Clayton, Mike Williams – all players drop some balls. I watched plenty of pro games this weekend, and guys dropped balls. That's just the way the game is. It's not something that's hard to get over, because I know that just as I dropped that, I'm going to make a catch like in the Florida game. I'm going to make a fourth-and-14. I'll make a diving catch in the end of the end zone. So for every bad play, I'm going to have two or three good ones. I let that stuff go."

The Florida game was the best of your career. How much do you take away from how you played in that one?

"Not much, because I've got to play another one, and I could be right back where I was before. Just as much as they love me now, they could hate me twice as much a couple weeks from now. It's good to know that people know that I can play, and I don't just know it – I'm not the only one who knows that I can play. Now it's out there, and you guys (reporters) can write some good things about me, and I can tell my mom to get the newspaper, and not tell her, ‘Don't worry about reading the newspaper.' I can actually tell her, and I can send articles home, and things like that. That's really the best thing that I've gotten out of it."

That play on fourth-and-14 was as positive as the drop against Miami was negative. Do you feel like it erased the earlier play?

"A lot of it, really, was a statement. People coming into this season probably thought, ‘Who is the third-down guy?' It's probably me. About midway through the season, you hadn't seen me. I think it was a statement, like, ‘Just because you haven't seen me doesn't mean that I'm not clutch.' I'm still going to make plays when the opportunity presents itself. I got an opportunity – unfortunately, how it happened was my best friend, my brother, Cro (Thorpe), getting hurt. But that opportunity came, and there it was. And that was a statement, that Dominic Robinson is here, he's still a playmaker, and don't doubt it."

Jeff said you told Chris Davis you weren't coming out right before the fourth-and-14 play.

"I had just run deep, it was third down, so I had been in on three plays in a row, I'm walking back, and Chris Davis starts to jog out, like the way we do. When somebody goes deep, usually, somebody else comes in. Well, Chris Davis starts coming out, I waved to him, saying, ‘Hold on. I'm all right. I can get this last play.'"

And at that time, you didn't know what the call was.

"I didn't know what the play was, I was probably 25 yards from the huddle. I didn't know what the play was. I didn't know it was coming to me. All I knew was that it was fourth down and I wanted to be on the field for that play."

When the ball was snapped, what happened?

"Well, before the ball was snapped, I thought the play had no hope. The ball was snapped, and then I got deeper than I was supposed to get, deeper than the route usually gets, because the worst thing that could have happened was to catch the ball and end up short. And I knew it was fourth-and-long. I didn't know it was fourth-and-14. I knew it wasn't ten. So I said, ‘I'm getting deep.' And I end up getting what, 21 yards on the catch. It's supposed to be a 15-yard route – a 12-, 13-, or 15-yard route."

When you were running the route, did you know the ball was coming straight to you?

"Oh, yeah. It's me or Chris (Rix) can run it. There really is no other read. So I knew the ball was coming to me after the ball was snapped. The safety got deep, and I got right in the void, and Chris made a perfect throw. He put it right where it needed to be."

You made a pretty good catch, too.

"Yeah, I didn't think it was that great of a catch, to be honest. I'll take the praise for it, but I thought it was me doing my job. That's what I'm supposed to do, is make those plays."

You're pretty close to Chris Rix, and you've been able to see how Miami has been the monkey on his back. How much would a win against them mean?

"Oh, it would be great, because it's the only team that he hasn't beaten that we play on a consistent basis. We had the loss to Louisville (last season). It would be huge for him. I definitely want it for him, because of the fact that as a quarterback, people seem to look at that – nobody's ever going to say ‘Dominic Robinson is 0-3 against Miami.' Nobody cares. Nobody cares that P.K. Sam, or any of the receivers, or running backs, haven't beaten them. It's all on the quarterback, like he's the only one on the field. That's what they look at. You want it for him. You really do."

You came into this season with a lot of expectation, even from the coaches. How big of a setback was your hamstring injury in August?

"The thing about it – the story's kind of misconstrued, that I was hurt throughout the season. Really, I was back for the first game, and ready to play. It was bothering me, but everybody's banged-up. But what it did was, two-a-days, and all that preseason practice, is really big for chemistry, and getting the right equation. And what it did was, it threw me out of the equation. We're winning games, playing well, guys are catching the ball, so where do you put a guy in? Had things gone bad, I'm sure I would have been thrown back in there. Things are going well, we're throwing and catching, and you don't want to mess up that equation by throwing a guy in there that hasn't been around. That's all that really happened. I just wasn't part of the equation at that time, and I slowly started to work back in. Even when I was in there a lot, the coverage and things were pushing the ball elsewhere. That's just the way it happens in football."

Was it harder on you because you were an upperclassman, and because you had had such a good spring?

"Yeah. That was hard. That was really a hard thing to deal with, because I did think it was my time. There was no doubt in my mind that I was ready, that I could make a difference. It didn't happen, and that's fine. That's just the way the game goes. It didn't wear on me to the point where I'm like, ‘Man, I don't want to play football anymore.' I still love to come to practice every day, and I still love playing on Saturdays. I love to see the other guys succeed. I love jumping on P.K. and Cro when they score. That's what they always say about me. I love to win. I love to score touchdowns as a team. It didn't wear on me to the point where I was down during games. I'm always up. I knew my time was going to come. That's the biggest thing. I knew you couldn't keep a player down for long."

You said in the preseason that that was the first time you had ever missed a practice – Pop Warner, high school, college, whatever. Was that part of what made it so hard – that you didn't know how to be part of the team unless you were practicing?

"Yeah. I definitely did. I learned a lot about myself, because I had never done that before. And for a while there, I probably got into a funk, because I didn't know what to do. I didn't know – did this mean I wasn't a leader anymore? I didn't know what to do. Do I still lead? Do I still jump on guys when they score? How do I act? I didn't know how to act as an injured guy. Once I figured that out, once I learned how to do that, things became easy, and it became easier for me to come to practice again. I didn't know how to act, being a hurt guy. And I just had to learn. If you've never done it before, you don't know how."

Was that as challenging as your freshman year, when you were healthy and still struggling to get on the field as a defensive back?

"That was definitely way harder, because at DB, I felt a lot like I felt this year – I'm just half a play away from getting in there. There was one week I thought I was even going to start at corner. I was just always right on the edge of almost getting there. When you're hurt, you know that you're not there. I knew, with the hamstring, that I wasn't going to be in the equation come the North Carolina game. I knew I wasn't going to start. That was definitely much harder to deal with, being hurt, than being on the sidelines healthy."

How were you able to retain your confidence after that drop?

"That's just me. I know myself. It was pouring rain out there. That probably made it a little bit easier for me. I don't know if I'd have dropped it if it was dry or not, but I know that that definitely made it easier for me to deal with. I knew that I dropped the ball in the pouring rain, in the third quarter or something like that, so the ball had been wet. It was easier to deal with because I know that I'm not going to make every single play. I would like to."


Nole Digest Top Stories