Word was getting out about Allen Robinson during the 2013 spring practice sessions. According to insiders, Robinson was stronger, faster and had improved his footwork even more after a stellar 2012 campaign when he was named the Big Ten's best receiver as a true sophomore. Now he had put in work to reach an entirely new level- not only being the best receiver in the Big Ten, but arguably the top in all of college football.
It became very clear at the very beginning of the Blue-White Game that even bigger things were on the way for Robinson in 2013.
It was a surprise to many when Robinson entered the season-opening game against Indiana State as a true freshman in 2011. Most Nittany Lion fans had just assumed he would put in a redshirt season before eventually fighting for playing time later in his career. In fact, many fans were surprised to see Robinson in a Penn State uniform at all. Robinson committed to Penn State as a three-star prospect whose offer list consisted of Buffalo, Toledo and Minnesota. Message boards light up to bemoan the downfall of Penn State Football. Fans were shocked that Penn State would offer someone who wasn't a four or five-star recruit with offers from Oregon, Alabama, and every powerhouse in between. Many even went as far to claim that Penn State had thrown away a scholarship just to appease quarterback Rob Bolden, who played on the same team as Robinson in Orchard Lake, Michigan.
In the past three years, Robinson has practically served up crow with a side of garlic mashed potatoes to each of those detractors.
Robinson can leave one year of eligibility on the table and still go down as the greatest receiver ever to wear a Penn State uniform. The first and most obvious claim is to look at his numbers. Robinson has caught 177 passes for 2,479 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first three years of eligibility. Those numbers are even more impressive when you realize that all but 3 receptions and 29 yards came during the past two seasons, mostly when everyone on the opposite side of the field knew he would be getting the ball. Additionally, Robinson doesn't have two extra bowl games to aid his assault on the record books.
But, as is usually the case, the numbers tell a very small portion of the story. Robinson is one of those rare types of receivers that only come along once in a generation for most programs, if at all. His talent is so overwhelming that when all else fails, you can simply throw the ball in his direction, close your eyes and hope for the best.
This was the case many times in 2013 as Penn State broke in a true freshman at quarterback. During the inevitable stretches with no productivity, Robinson was always there to provide hope. Just having him in a Penn State uniform always gave the team a chance to strike at a moments notice. After so many plays where we had to rub our eyes in disbelief of what just happened, we all came to the same conclusion- we always have a chance as long as number eight is on our side.
Where does one even begin to make this point? Is it the first week of the season when Robinson immediately stepped in after one-half suspension and broke the game wide open by proving he's at a whole different level than everyone else on the field? Is it the Ohio State game where he still managed to have the most eye-popping play despite a demeaning 49-point beat down? Is it the breathtaking reception to help force overtime against Michigan that is now permanently etched into the mind of all Penn State fans? Was it the 2,384 times he caught a bubble screen and made the first couple would-be tacklers look like they were playing their first-ever football game? Week after week, Robinson made plays that would otherwise be THE highlight of the season if not for the fact he made them with such regularity. It got to the point where he tricked us into thinking he was have an off day until you looked at the stat sheet and realized he was having a career day for most college receivers.
In a day and age when most standout wide receivers are mostly concerned about establishing their brands and explaining to the world just how great they are, Robinson humbly went about his business, outworked everyone else and let his play do all of his talking for him. There were never fingers pointed when his teammates best simply wasn't enough. There were no childish demands for the ball when the offense was stuck in neutral. Robinson simply kept his head down and kept making plays that gave us all hope that things would somehow end up in our favor. He was just what the program needed, at the exact moment they needed him most.
No one outside of of Robinson's inner-circle has a good idea if he's leaning towards heading to the NFL early or returning for another season in State College. But whether he is playing on Saturdays or Sundays next fall, he will leave a legacy that all Penn State fans can admire and remember why they love this program so much in the first place.
Perhaps Robinson's legacy at Penn State will be the hope he instilled in a fan base who desperately needed something good to happen. Here's to you, Mr. Robinson.