Amad Robinson drove into the parking lot of Wilson High School on Wednesday morning, just as the sun was starting to rise. He said he could feel the nervousness in his bones.
From student here, to quarterback on a team that reached the state championship game, graduating from here, teaching here and now – coaching here.
“I’ll be honest – I was excitedly nervous,” Robinson said. “Because this is my show now and it’s my stamp on it and I’ll be judged accordingly.
This was the first time in 29 years that a new coach has led Wilson’s opening football practice, with Robinson taking over for his former coach and Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Famer Don Clegg.
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“I’m super, super excited,” Robinson said, just after a pair of three-hour practices – which included a lot of yelling, running, form signing and more running.
He said it felt just like 1998. No, Marcus Trufant wasn’t there preparing to play running back and defensive back and Robinson isn’t quite the athletic dual-threat quarterback he was then. But there was the same football stench that began to fill the air, players huffing and puffing from sprints and the clack of chin straps on helmets.
“It sends chills through your body,” Robinson said.
He has what seems like an all-star cast of coaches on his staff, including two former NFL players.
Greg Herd, the Steilacoom graduate and former All-American receiver at Eastern Washington who spent training camps with the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears, is Wilson’s quarterbacks coach and helping with special teams.
Isaiah Trufant, the middle of the three Trufant brothers, will work with the defense and defensive backs. He played four seasons as a cornerback for the New York Jets after graduating from Wilson. There’s 13 assistants total – and they seemed like they were just as capable of strapping on helmets and playing as the actual players.
“If they need to, they can strap on the cleats and show you how to do it,” said Wilson’s returning all-league defensive back Drew Bonds. “And that’s a really good thing to have.”
And he can relate to his players.
“His awareness is a 31 on Madden,” Robinson yelled after one of his players on didn’t catch a kickoff, drawing some laughs.
The Rams are coming off a 4-6 season, though they reached the 3A state playoffs the year prior. It’s an inexperienced group, but there’s already pieces in place that Robinson said he things can make them a contender.
One is Bonds at receiver and defensive back. Robinson threw some passes, but said their 6-foot-4 sophomore, Jack Hanisch, already looks better than he did when he played.
Hanisch spent most of his first practice throwing passes to Herd.
“It’s just great having those people around me so I can soak up all that knowledge they have,” Hanisch said.
There’s also promising junior Emmanuel Croskey at running back and safety and 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end and offensive tackle Josiah Vaiolo back.
Even 6-foot-7 Emmitt Matthews Jr., who has NCAA Division I scholarship offers from basketball coaches across the country, was on the sideline taking in the practice and said he’s considering playing football his senior year.
But Robinson wanted to set the tone his first day. After practice he challenged his seniors.
“This game ain’t for everyone,” he said. “We’ll tell you – we’re trying to make people quit. We only want the people who want to be here that bad. So if you’re going to quit – quit.”
“It was the first day, so there was a lot of house cleaning and things to clean up in terms of how we do things here and the culture,” Robinson said. “But I was pleased with the numbers and the effort and enthusiasm. We are still inexperienced, but I believe they will step up when the bullets start to fly.”
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