November 28, 2012 9:50:15 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
JACKSON -- Someone always is watching.
Darrell Robinson knew his teammates were counting on him. His senior season was still months away, but Robinson wasn't going to waste any time. He knew backfield mate Ladarrell Hunt was on his way to Itawamba Community College, so he was going to have to shoulder an even bigger role in 2012 for the Noxubee County High School football team.
Coach Tyrone Shorter realized it, too. Shorter talked to his rising senior shortly after a disappointing loss to Amory High in the second round of the 2011 Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A North State playoffs. He stressed to Robinson the Tigers needed him to be a go-to back they could use behind an experienced offensive line.
Robinson went to work to become that back.
Sometimes, though, when people aren't looking, even the most ambitious individuals can lose sight of their goal.
Shorter discovered that wasn't going to happen with Robinson.
One day in the offseason, Shorter went to Noxubee County High and saw one player working out. He made sure not to announce his presence and worked his way to the field to get a closer look. When he saw Robinson training by himself, he knew the Tigers had a chance to get to Jackson.
"I saw how hard he was working and I said, 'We're going to be able to count on that kid right there,' " Shorter said.
Shorter and the Tigers had no idea Robinson would deliver like he has. The 5-foot-10, 191-pounder has shattered expectations in a record-breaking season. Robinson's latest step came Friday when he rushed for 256 yards and five touchdowns and returned a kick 85 yards for another score to lead Noxubee County to a 41-21 victory against Louisville High in the MHSAA Class 4A North State title game at Tiger Stadium.
The performance gave Robinson 49 touchdowns for the season and helped him eclipse the state of Mississippi's single-season mark for TDs held by former Weir High standout Dicenzo Miller (47 in 1997).
For his accomplishment, Robinson is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"I know what it takes to be a winner. You have to be a hard worker," Robinson said. "I just love football."
Robinson said he always has loved football and even has a penchant for holding a football when he is not on the field. He feels he took some points for granted and didn't work as hard as he needed to realize his goals and to help the Tigers accomplish everything they could.
This season, Robinson said he appreciates the game more and has done everything he could to make this a season to remember.
"Last year, the senior who were in front of me, I counted on them instead of counting on myself sometimes, " Robinson said. "This year, I knew my team was counting on me to make plays. Last year, I was counting on my other teammates, the seniors, to make the play."
Robinson said part of his offseason work included training with his cousin in Memphis, Tenn. He said he worked out, ran, and lifted weights with his cousin in Memphis "about five times" as part of his preparation for what he knew would be a busy senior season.
"He really motivated me to get out there," Robinson said of his cousin. "He just wanted to put into my head the importance of hard work."
Shorter said Robinson's consistent work habits and dedication have allowed him to withstand the pounding of a 330-carry, 2,686-yard season. At 15-0, Noxubee County has one more step to take to write another chapter in the history books. A victory against Greene County at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Class 4A state title game would make the 2012 Tigers the school's first football team to go 16-0. The 2008 state championship team went 14-0.
Shorter said Robinson set 2,000 yards as a goal in the preseason. His performances against Louisville (326 yards in the regular season, 256) almost pushed him past the 2,000-yard mark.
"He changed on his own," Shorter said. "He ran track for the first time to build up his endurance. Once he did that, he got the wind. The difference between last year and this year is he would break a long run last year and come out of the game. If he breaks a long run this year, he can keep going."
Shorter said Robinson would run by himself with a parachute attached to his chest to increase his strength. He said Robinson also would lift weights at the fieldhouse to make sure he was physically prepared to handle the pounding of being a featured back.
Shorter feels part of Robinson's emergence can be attributed to the fact he realized it was his senior year and that this was his final chance to reach a goal he and his 22 classmates had been striving for since they reached high school. There also was another crucial ingredient.
"I think he saw how good he really could be and he took upon his own to be the best," Shorter said. "Whatever it was, he responded to the challenge we asked him to do, and he has been an amazing running back for us."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.