Justin Robbins: Ready to Rock

Two seasons ago, a wide-eyed freshman named <b><a href=http://scout.TheInsiders.com/a.z?s=147&p=8&c=1&nid=306455&yr=2002>Justin Robbins</a></b> burst onto the Washington football scene and turned in one of the most memorable receptions in recent Husky history, a miraculous 22-yarder in the pouring rain to beat Stanford in Palo Alto.

He went on to haul in a team-leading four touchdowns on 22 receptions for the year, completing one of the finest seasons by a freshman receiver in Husky history.

Two seasons later, the third-year player from Olympia, Washington, is the one receiver near the top of the depth chart who seems to have fallen off the radar screen. The attention has been squarely focused on Reggie Williams and Paul Arnold for their game-breaking ability, Charles Frederick for his well-documented return to the team, and Wilbur Hooks Jr. and Patrick Reddick who are entering their fifth and sixth seasons respectively.

It's all a matter of, "What have you done for me lately?"

A hamstring injury in fall camp forced Robbins to red-shirt in 2001, and a knee injury in bowl practices in December made a return to the field in 2002 questionable at best. The doctors told him that the injury would take six to 12 months to heal depending on the person.

"I determined that I was one of those that would be back in six months," Robbins said.

The rehabilitation process was anything but a walk in the park. It was tedious and time consuming, often a weight on the receiver's mind. It didn't help that he had to sit and watch as the others on the team got a chance to suit up and play every Saturday. Still, Robbins plugged away.

He started by working on flexing the quad muscle. Then the focus moved to strengthening the leg. Over the months, he progressed well ahead of schedule.

By April, he was jogging. By May, he'd progressed to running.

His determination paved the way to a rapid recovery, but it didn't come without plenty of frustrating moments.

"There were a lot of times when we'd do the same thing every day for three or four weeks," he said. "It got difficult sometimes, but you just have to keep your eye on the goal."

The fact that Robbins contributed so much as a freshman helped the youngster focus on the task at hand. He already knew that he could play at the college level. There was no doubt in his mind. His accomplishments in 2000 gave Robbins something to shoot for as he looked ahead to a return to the gridiron.

He also got advice from the training staff that he says helped him put the situation in perspective.

"They told me that it could have been a lot worse," Robbins said. "They said that you could have had something where you couldn't walk. That was just all I could think about. As devastating as this injury was, it wasn't like it was going to change my life in any way. That helped me stay positive and keep working."

Justin says that his parents and Head Coach Rick Neuheisel were two others he relied on for support.

He said Neuheisel told him, "Tough times never last but tough guys do." That helped Robbins keep pushing forward, and eventually he was back to 100 percent.

Now, with fall camp well under way, he wears a knee brace for support, but looks like his old self again. His work ethic to get back on the field has drawn praise from receivers coach Bobby Kennedy.

"Boy, it's been awesome to see him," said Kennedy, who's coaching in his first year at Washington. "I didn't really know what to expect from him. I didn't really know the type of skills he had. Coach Neuheisel and Coach (Steve) Axman and the other guys on the offense kept telling me, 'Wait until you see Justin, wait until you see Justin.'"

"I'll tell you he's really impressed me this camp," Kennedy continued.

"He works hard and does everything you ask him to do. I think he's a great competitor and he's showed me a lot from the way he battled back from his knee injury."

With the knee injury behind him, which Robbins says has yet to flare up on him to date, the red-shirt sophomore looks forward to the start of the season. The receiving corps is the deepest position on the team, and Robbins says his main goal is to just come in and consistently contribute this season.

"We've got a lot more depth at the position (than ever before), but I think that's great because there's a lot more competition and competition brings out the best in everybody," Robbins said. "That will help everybody step up their game that much more and help us become that much more of a passing team."

As a receiver, it's hard to ask for anything more that. But Robbins has one more wish - a healthy season. Given that, the Huskies will have another weapon in their arsenal, even if it's one that many seem to overlook.

The tough-luck Robbins went down in practice yesterday with a knee injury, but it wasn't the surgically repaired ACL. Rick Neuheisel said after practice, "We'll have to wait and see exactly what the extent of the injury is, but the doctors don't think it is anything real serious. That's encouraging although it was a real scare, and I'm sure it was a real scare for Justin."

Keep your fingers crossed for this guy. He's worked too hard to be kept away for too long.

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