Cleo Robinson: The Inside Story

Less than a month ago, Stanford offered a three-star New Jersey linebacker named Cleo Robinson. This past Saturday, he committed to the Farm (while at a barn, no less). The Bootleg fills in all the blanks… read on!

LB Cleo Robinson (he prefers "Cleo" to his official name, Cleophus) first heard from Stanford on December 23, less than four weeks ago. The New Jersey product was then a soft commit to Louisville, and had visited Villanova and UPenn. He reports offers from those schools and Temple, and interest from many Eastern schools, including UConn, Syracuse, Rutgers, Pitt and Michigan State. How'd it all change?

Perhaps the most interesting part of Robinson's story is how a West Coast school ever came to find the New Jersey linebacker.

"My coaches [including Coach John Doherty and several assistants] sent out my tape for me," Robinson said in a Monday interview with The Bootleg. "He's good with that kind of stuff. He helped me out. He just distributed for me. But only one team has the tape: he just sent it out to Stanford."

Why would Robinson's coaches only send his tape to Stanford?

"I don't know," he said. "I'm really interested in academics and high-quality football, so he sent it to Stanford for me. I wasn't really interested in any of the schools around here."

So Robinson's tape gets passed around the Stanford football office, the Cardinal decide to make an offer, and on Dec. 23, Robinson's first contact with the University arrives in his mailbox. Robinson's mom was the first to see the scholarship letter.

"My mom just calls me from downstairs, and all I hear is ‘Ahhh, ahhh,' so I'm screaming because I think something's wrong," Cleo Robinson said. "I come downstairs, and after breathing, she tells me I have an offer. That was crazy, and then we talked to a few coaches. It was great."

With both his parents in tow, Robinson overcame his dislike of planes and made the five-hour flight westward to the Bay this past weekend. His initial plan was to commit in a personal meeting with Coach Harbaugh, but that all changed at a Saturday night hoedown at The Barn on West Campus.

"Well first, I told my parents before that I was thinking about committing and they said go for it. They have no objections. You can't find anything wrong with the place, and if you try, you'll fail. It's nice over there, it's perfect and the program is great. There's nothing wrong.

"I was going to wait to commit for when we met one-on-one with Coach Harbaugh, but the hoedown seemed like the right time, so I went for it," he said. "It was a great time, everyone was there, and I felt comfortable. They announced it over the PA and everyone was going crazy."

Robinson joins Ala. QB/ATH Darren Daniel, Calif. QB Brett Nottingham and Tex. S Barry Browning as a prospect who committed to Stanford on this Big Visit weekend. For his part, Robinson not only represents an infusion of speed and strength for the Cardinal, but he also plays a position Stanford most desperately hopes to fill in this recruiting class: linebacker.

"They told me I'll play linebacker, be an outside ‘backer, and that's where I'm most comfortable," Robinson said. "In high school, I was a hybrid OLB/DE. A lot of times I'd be blitzing, but I'd have to play the running back out and cover the slot guy. Our defense was a 5-2 n then we'd go 4-4, so it'd just depend.

"They told me my tape went through a lot of hands and everyone liked it. How fast I was, my burst, that I made a lot of good plays, my speed. Mostly, it was my explosiveness."

Even by the lofty standards of a D-I athlete, Robinson's numbers are impressive. He reports running a high-4.4 40-yard dash his junior year and measures in at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. He says he squats a max of 580 pounds, or 500 with multiple reps, benches 315, and can close-grip bench 285 pounds for a full 10-rep set.

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The past few weeks have been nothing if not tumultuous for Stanford football, with recruits and assistant coaches alike coming and going in rapid succession. However, Robinson insisted that assistants moving up the ladder and taking better jobs elsewhere didn't bother him at all.

"I know that those coaches got jobs elsewhere because they were successful here, and as the program gets a better and better name each year, people who are qualified will get those jobs," he said. "I'm sure they can bring great guys in."

Through the Northeast is less represented on Stanford's 85 than on other schools' squads, Robinson did manage to hang out with one East Coaster this past weekend: Maryland CB and Stanford re-commit Louis Young, a top priority recruit in the 2010 class.

"Young's cool, he's funny, he's exciting to be around," Robinson said. "… I'm eager to step up to the plate, prove myself and get ready to get out here, work hard and represent the East Coast."

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