Robinson Relishes Second Chance Senior Season

Damien Robinson earned a spot at the starting table last fall only to see his season cut short. An ACL tear robbed the Bulldogs' starting right tackle of his campaign before he had taken the first official snap. The road back has been littered with pain, suffering, NCAA red tape and thoughts of what may have been. Granted a medical hardship year, Robinson is eager to get another bite at the apple.

Damien Robinson profile

"It's been a roller coaster to be honest with you," Robinson said. "I have been out seven months prior to this. I have been sitting out and watching everybody else. Now I am getting back into it and getting that football strength back. I am getting back to how I used to work.

"Last fall, I was kind of at my peak. I am just trying to get back to that level. I want to show these other guys that I might be older than them, but I can still get out there and do some good things."

Robinson's story was not supposed to play out like this. His script has been rearranged and life schedule interrupted. The plan was to have one final triumphant season with the class he came in with.

"I was the starting right tackle, having fun and enjoying my senior year with my teammates," Robinson said. "I was out there with D-Day (Dillon Day), Ben Beckwith and Blaine Clausell and our big senior class. I was ready to have fun and just go out with those guys, but then things happened."

The loss of those glorious expectations was a heavy burden to bear even for Robinson's broad shoulders. The physical setback took a toll on the personable Robinson in more ways than one.

"It broke me down," Robinson admitted. "I am not even going to lie about that. It broke me down a lot. I dreamed of my senior year and just balling out and having fun with my senior class. I wasn't even thinking about the NFL or anything after my senior year. I just wanted to be able to play that last year with the guys from my freshmen class. We had all built this up and worked together and I wanted to be able to share that with them.

"It was devastating for me. It hurt me and I had some depression over all of it. I'm back now and I have another chance, so I count all of this as a blessing."

While some close to him suggested that he consider hanging up his cleats and moving on from football, Robinson reports that he wanted his college career to end on his terms.

"I never really thought about giving it up," Robinson said. "I am an optimistic person by nature, so I looked at all of that as if God still had something to teach me while I was still in college. I don't think it's even about books or about football. I feel like God has something to teach me as a man, while I am under Coach (Dan) Mullen and under Coach (John) Hevesy. I feel like I have been given another chance to learn something important."

Working back from injury, Robinson applied for a 6th year of eligibility due to medical hardship. The official verdict from the NCAA was returned just a few weeks before spring practice began.

"It was a long process," Robinson said of the petition for the hardship year. "We applied for it around the first of December. I didn't get the okay until probably the first week in February. It's a frustrating process, because you really want to come back and play again. I was working hard with my rehab and working hard to get healthy and I didn't know what they were going to come back with.

"I really wanted to play again, but I had decided that if it didn't work out that I had my degree and my education and that is really the best thing ever for me."

When the official clearance was granted, Robinson got the good word and some good advice from his position coach.

"I found out from Coach Hevesy," Robinson explained. "He told me I was coming back, but he wanted to know what I planned to do with my extra year. Was I going to get another degree or just graduate or get my masters.

"I told him I wanted to get my degree in psychology and just ball out. I am not even looking past this season to the NFL or anything like that. I had my senior season taken from me, so I want to be able to enjoy this season. I want to be able to play again no matter what happens after this year. My focus is to get my degree and have as much fun playing football as I can."

The Mississippi State offensive line must replace three starters from a season ago, but nearly every spot on the Bulldog two deep is filled with a player with SEC experience already.

"The good thing about all of the replacement pieces is that we have all played together," Robinson said. "I played next to Rufus (Warren) when he was a tight end. Justin Senior is my roommate, so we know each other really well. I have played with Devon (Desper) and I know how Jamaal (Clayborn) works. I have been playing with (Justin) Malone since he got here.

"I know all of these guys and I know hard they all work. When you lose three starters on the line, people are going to question you. We have some young guys, but we also have a lot of guys with some experience. I think we're going to do great.

"I am not even really worried about the experience, because we've all been in the fire before. We just have to go back out there and do it again and do what we're asked to do."

The annual Maroon and White game will kick off at 11 AM. For Robinson that contest marks the first time he has played before Mississippi State fans since last season's spring game. It has been a long time coming for #78 and it's a contest he expected to attend rather than play in. Now granted a new lease on his football life, Robinson is eager to hear that familiar ring of Cowbells.

"It's all been a progression," Robinson said. "I have been getting back to how I used to do things, getting back to game speed and having confidence in my work. I am ready to have some fun and show people that I'm not going anywhere. I want to show people that I'm back and that I can be a starter wherever the team needs me."

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