Never mind that the opportunity came from a school that he had never heard of until last week or a school that doesn't offer football scholarships. All Bastrop High running back Xavier Robinson ever wanted was a chance to continue his football career.
Just hours before graduating on Friday, May 18, Robinson accepted an offer to join the football team at Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock. He completed his paper work Friday morning and will report Tuesday for the first day of summer classes.
Although he has gathered information from the Internet and from talking to his future coaches, Robinson admits he still isn't real familiar with his new school. Not that it really matters.
“I'm just going to go up there and give it everything I have,” Robinson said. “I was just looking for somewhere to play.”
After talking to several junior colleges with no results, Robinson was beginning to wonder if that “somewhere” was ever going to pan out.
“I was getting worried,” Robinson admitted. “It was stressful, especially when May hit and I still didn't have anywhere to go.”
In the end, Robinson found a school closer to home than he expected.
“Little Rock's not that far from Bastrop,” Robinson said. “I was hoping I could go to one of the Mississippi schools, but after they reduced their number of out-of-state scholarships, I started looking at schools in Texas and Kansas.”
Prior to arriving at Bastrop High, Robinson set the all-time rushing record at Morehouse Junior High. Following two injury-marred seasons and two knee operations, Robinson emerged as the Rams' feature back last season with 144 carries for 837 yards and 14 touchdowns. Statistically, his best game was a 22-carry, 147-yard, 2-TD effort vs. Rayville.
Arkansas Baptist offensive coordinator Daryl Mason — a former assistant at ULM, Northwestern State, Tulane and Louisiana-Lafayette — recommended Robinson to head coach Richard Wilson, his former Arkansas Razorbacks' teammate.
“If Daryl Mason says Xavier can play, he can play,” Wilson said. “I haven't seen Xavier play, but I do know this — the kids who come here from Louisiana are equipped to play. Football is important to them.”
Arkansas Baptist had approximately 20 players from Louisiana on its 2011 roster.
“We're hoping to scoop up about 15 more guys from the New Orleans-Baton Rouge area this year,” Wilson said. “We don't have a big (recruiting) budget, so our kids are our best ambassadors. They go back home and sell our program to other kids.”
Entering its sixth season, Arkansas Baptist's football program is an intriguing story in its own right.
A four-year institution, the school competes in football as an independent junior college. Arkansas Baptist President Fitzgerald Hill, the former San Jose State head coach, came up with the idea of adding football as a non-scholarship sport in order to reduce the enormous start-up costs associated with the sport.
Once Hill was given the green light to bring football to Arkansas Baptist, he enlisted Wilson as the Buffalos' first football coach. Ironically, Hill was once a graduate assistant under Wilson at Arkansas.
“He was a GA for me, now he's the school president. I'm working for Dr. Hill now,” Wilson laughed.
Besides Arkansas, Wilson's extensive Division I background includes stints at Clemson, Oklahoma State and Minnesota, among others. At Oklahoma State, Wilson was on the staff with future OSU head coaches Les Miles and Mike Gundy and eventual Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator and Oklahoma head coach Bob Simmons.
When Fitzgerald approached Wilson with the head coaching position, the Hope High School alumnus decided it was time to return to his home state.
While the Arkansas Baptist program remains a work in progress, Wilson has seen some positive results. Sixty former Buffalos have moved on to four-year programs, including recent Tampa Bay free agent signee Antonio Leak, a linebacker who went on to play for Henderson State.
“By no means are we a marquee program yet,” Wilson said. “With no scholarships, we take a Division III approach. We offer kids an education first, with a chance to play football second.”