Bijan Robinson had his moment this summer — that time when a high school football player bursts onto the scene as a recruit.
He had another, more scary moment, too.
Robinson was taking part at an elite Rivals.com recruiting camp when his leg went a certain way. His knee nearly blew out.
“It was very, very scary. He could’ve been seriously injured,” Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said. “He’s just an incredible athlete and he was very competitive.”
Robinson laughed off the moment, saying he knew right away he wasn’t injured. So he moved on, and was named the camp’s most valuable player, and went on to earn scholarship offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Washington.
Robinson will open his sophomore season Friday as one of the most highly regarded recruits in the state.
Robinson was moved up to Salpointe’s varsity team against Sunnyside midway through his freshman year. He promptly scored a 52-yard touchdown on his first career touch, a reception. Robinson finished the season with 767 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns. This season, he’ll pair with junior Mario Padilla to form one of the most dynamic running back combinations in the state. Padilla rushed for 1,427 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Since last year, Robinson — the grandson of longtime Pac-12 referee Cleo Robinson, a Pima County Sports Hall of Famer — bulked up to 190 pounds and grew three inches, to 6 feet. The Star talked to him as the Lancers prepared for Friday’s opener against Phoenix St. Mary’s:
How do you feel about this year’s team and what you guys can do?
A: “I think we’ll win state. Last year we had the chance to make it against (Scottsdale) Saguaro, but this season, I think we can go undefeated.”
When you look back, how do you view how your freshman season went? What was that first varsity game like?
A: “I think it went good. I played three games with freshmen, then I came up here and it was a smooth transition … It was scary, I was super-scared. I was nervous. And then that first play was touchdown. I was still kind of like, getting used to it. It was a good feeling.”
What have you worked on since last season? What do you need to improve on?
A: “I worked on my strength and grew three inches…. Last year I was breaking tackles, but this year (Bene) said I have to start running over people and being a dog.”
What was the experience like for you this summer, getting all that attention on the recruiting circuit?
A: “It was just surprising. I didn’t expect that. The opening and all that stuff, it was all cool, so see how talented kids are around the world, not just in Arizona. Those offers, it was all a surprise.”
What does that attention do for you?
A: “It makes me work harder because now everybody in the city is looking at Bijan Robinson. They want to come out and hit me, so now I have to work harder to get away from that.”
What was your experience like at that Rivals camp?
A: “Even going into that, that was surprising because those kids are huge. They’re all going to like Alabama and schools like that, and it was just like, ‘dang.’ Me coming as a freshman, it was all a blur. Then once I just played, it all just came naturally.”
What was it like when Arizona gave you your first scholarship offer?
A: “I was just driving home from dinner and it was late. It was like 11 and Coach Bene just texted me and said you got an offer from Zona. And I was just looking at it like, what? Are you serious? Then that’s what it was … I had an uncle that coached there, (former UA graduate assistant) Kylan Butler. He’s in Virginia (at Glenville State) now. I used to go (to Arizona) all the time. It was cool because I know them.”