FORT WORTH, Texas -- A'Shawn Robinson knew what was coming when he made the phone call.
Before taking off for an official visit to Florida State in September that would startle Texas fans and raise questions about his commitment, Robinson called the Longhorns coaching staff to inform them of his plans.
The ESPN 150 defensive tackle from Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights had decided to take official visits to three programs across the country. He needed to know he was making the right choice in staying home and going to Texas.
“They asked me if I’m still committed to them, and I said yeah,” Robinson said. “I have to take my visits (now) because of the family issues I had. I’ve just got to take my visits in the season, see the schools and make my decision.”
And how did the Texas coaches respond?
“It made them a little nervous,” he said.
The Longhorns have plenty reason to be nervous. Robinson is the No. 2 defensive tackle prospect in the state, and he’s Texas' only defensive tackle commit for the Class of 2013.
To say Robinson is an irreplaceable piece of Texas’ recruiting class might be hyperbole, but it’s not far from the truth. Perhaps that’s why coach Mack Brown and his staff gave Robinson permission to take his trips.
“I did know they didn’t like their recruits doing that,” Robinson said.
This is the dilemma Robinson is facing today. Stick with the Texas program he has been committed to for nearly nine months, or risk venturing outside his home state and taking a chance on another big-time program? He can’t answer that question without doing his due diligence.
When Robinson gave Texas his verbal pledge on Feb. 16, he did so knowing he’d likely take these visits someday. Family issues that have since been resolved prevented him from hitting the road this spring, and those junior day visits aren’t free.
Taking official visits might inconvenience the Texas program he gave his pledge to, but Robinson felt he had to do it. When he signs a letter of intent in three months, he wants to do so with no regrets.
Now Robinson is gearing up for trip No. 2. He’s taking in an Alabama home game on Saturday against Texas A&M, and he’s been looking forward to this official visit for a while.
“I’ve never really seen [the Crimson Tide] play in their hometown and that atmosphere on gameday,” Robinson said. “I like the program and the coaches. I went up there for a junior day and I liked the vibe there. It’s a small town, a small football town, and everyone goes to the games.”
When the weekend ends and Robinson comes home, he knows he’ll be bombarded with more questions and comments and interview requests.
That aspect of all of this has gotten tiresome for Robinson. Most fear the 6-foot-5, 304-pound defensive lineman when he has pads on. Off the field, though, nobody shies away from telling him what school he’s supposed to choose.
“A lot of people are worried about where I go,” he said. “It’s annoying. People where I live say, ‘Are you still going to Texas? I think you should go to Texas.’
“I’ll say yeah, or I don’t say anything. I don’t like people talking to me about it. I’m not really talkative. I keep to myself.”
He knows the attention will only worsen next month, when Robinson takes an official visit to the school he loved growing up: USC.
Many consider Southern Cal the school most likely to steal Robinson away from Texas. He’ll make his official visit after the season, on the weekend of the Longhorns’ football team banquet while the rest of UT’s pledge are in Austin.
Robinson doesn’t hesitate when asked if USC is the school to beat should he end up somewhere other than Texas.
“Yeah, it is my favorite school,” Robinson said. “That’s my favorite school because I grew up watching them. That’s why I like them, and their coaches are cool.
“I like Texas. I feel like Texas is the team I like, but then you still like the team you grew up watching.”
Robinson isn’t looking for the same things most recruits seeks on these visits. He has realized the school matters more to him than the football program. He wants a good law school, one that can prepare him for a career as a lawyer after his football days end. If a college has a debate team he can join, even better.
Once he flies home from Los Angeles, the visits will be done. He says he won’t drag his decision out. He doesn’t want a dramatic signing ceremony. After visiting USC, he said, it will be decision time.
Whenever that day arrives, Robinson will have a few more phone calls to make. For now, all Texas can do is hope that next call comes with some good news.