Photo by John Baker/Huskers.com

Robinson 'Relaxed, Happy' In Lincoln

By Brian Rosenthal

For one thing, their first names sound familiar.

Beyond that, and more importantly, Wandale Robinson and Rondale Moore share a similar football skill set, a similar level of athleticism that is upping the ante of offensive talent in the Big Ten Conference West Division.

Oh, and one other thing. Robinson, who’s beginning his freshman season at Nebraska, and Moore, named Big Ten freshman and receiver of the year last year at Purdue, shared the same personal trainer, at the same gym, for the last three years.

“The last time I talked to him,” Robinson said of Moore, “he was mad at me I didn’t go to Purdue.”

Robinson smiled as he talked of his relationship with Moore, and tips he took from the Purdue wide receiver and return specialist, as both players look to make jumps at their respective schools.

The 5-foot-9 Moore, from New Albany, Indiana, proved to be an electric, dynamic player for the Boilermakers in his collegiate debut, when he had 70-yard catch-and-run against Northwestern. Moore dazzled with his cuts, speed and burst, and finished the season with 103 receptions for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I’ve learned a lot from him, just being behind a guy I’m very similar to, being around the same height, the same weight,” Robinson said. “He’s taught me a lot of lessons with just training and the mindset you need to have going into college, and how you can make a lot of plays like he did his freshman year.”

Moore’s biggest tip? Get what you can, but don’t take a beating. Don’t try to do too much.

“He said to go in and compete; don’t be afraid of anything,” Robinson said. “Just go in and work like you did when you were in high school.”

Robinson, from Western Hills High School in Frankfort, Kentucky, graduated high school early so he could be among the early-enrolled student-athletes at Nebraska and participate in spring practices. He arrived on campus in January.

Regardless of where he went to college, Robinson knew early in high school he’d want to enroll early, so he began the process as a sophomore and stayed on track. He had to take three on-line courses as a senior.

“English was the only one that was kind of tough,” he said. “Other ones, they were pretty simple.”

Nebraska fans who follow recruiting are quite familiar with Robinson’s story and background. A four-star recruit who was named Mr. Football in Kentucky and the Gatorade Kentucky Player of the Year, he originally committed to Kentucky, saying he felt local pressure to do so.

Shortly before the early signing day in December, he changed his mind, followed his heart and chose Nebraska. And after being in Lincoln a few weeks and in the weight room with his teammates, he’s certain more now than ever he made the right decision.

“I’m really, really relaxed. I’m happy,” Robinson said. “A lot of times you see college kids, whenever they get to college and stuff, they get stressed out and things. But I’m really just taking it all in. I’m really happy with where I am right now.”

In his illustrious career, Robinson totaled 8,528 yards from scrimmage, with 118 offensive touchdowns. He did most of his damage on the ground, as a running back, where he gained 6,795 yards and averaged more than 11 yards per carry.

Yet at Nebraska, he’s labeled an athlete on the roster, seemingly a perfect fit for coach Scott Frost’s “Duck-R” position, a hybrid receiver/running back role.

Actually, Robinson has considered himself such since his sophomore year of high school.

“That’s when they started trying to throw me the ball a lot more,” Robinson said. “Over time, more and more schools started seeing me as a receiver more than a running back, being able to use my speed in space and things like that, my quickness.

“I really like being both. That’s what I pride myself on doing. I like being able to play both at a very high level. Teams can’t say, ‘He’s a running back,’ and teams can’t say, ‘He’s a receiver.’ I’m both, so you have to game plan for that.”

Robinson also played baseball through his sophomore year and played basketball in middle school. Regardless the sport, Robinson has proudly upheld the same mental approach that’s kept him successful.

“When I was 5, my dad taught me that whenever you step on the field, you’re the best player on the field,” Robinson said. “I remember since that happened, that’s been my same mindset.”

He’ll take the approach into spring football when practices begin March 4. Until then, Robinson is acclimating himself to the weight room and winter conditioning.

“It’s a very, very good culture,” Robinson said. “If you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to do, you’re going to get called out.”

Who, specifically, might do that?

“Anybody. Everybody. All the older guys, they’re really, really on us, and even some of the younger guys who have been here for a year or two, they’re on us, too.

“They’ll just correct you. They’re not trying to be mean about it. The older guys, they haven’t treated us like, ‘Oh, you’re a freshman, I’m not going to help you.’ They treat us just like we’re another player on the team.

"Obviously, everybody’s in there, working their butts off, doing what they have to do, and everybody knows what we can do this year and what our expectations are. We’re expecting to win every game that we play. That’s something that’s kind of prided upon in the weight room.”

Because they’re all together at some point or another, Robinson said he and the other freshmen already on campus “are about as tight as we can be.” You’ll often find him together with tight end Chris Hickman, while he rooms with quarterback Luke McCaffrey and receiver Jamie Nance.

Their routine goes something like this: Lift, breakfast, meetings, lunch, more meetings, class … you get the picture.

“If I don’t have a class,” Robinson said, “I’m here, I’m learning something, doing anything I can right now.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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