CHASING THE DREAM

Former St. John’s star Edmond Robinson hopes to become the first Newberry player to be picked in the NFL draft since 1974.

Since Edmond Robinson returned from last weekend’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, his celebrity status on Johns and Wadmalaw islands has spiked almost as much as his vertical jump.

“A lot of kids have told me how I’ve inspired them to reach their goals,” said Robinson, a former football standout at St. John’s High School and Newberry College. “Even some older people have told me I’m a big inspiration to them, that they use me as motivation. It’s special, because I’m learning along the way how I affect other people’s lives.

“It’s all a little surreal. I guess a lot of people tuned in to watch the combine. Somebody told me, ‘You are the biggest celebrity on Johns Island.’ To me, I’m just the same regular guy doing what I always said I wanted to do.”

Robinson was one of only two Division II players at the combine, and the 6-3, 245-pound linebacker put together such a good performance that he has a solid chance to become the first Newberry player in 41 years to be picked in the NFL draft, set to begin April 30.

The National Football Post named Robinson one of two outside linebackers on its “NFL Combine All-Stars” list, along with Kentucky’s Bud Dupree. “Freakishly long with a frame that could easily add much more weight and muscle,” reads the analysis of Robinson at NFL.com.

Robinson’s arm length of 34 inches and hand size of 101/4 inches ranked among the largest for linebackers at the combine. His vertical jump (37 inches), 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds) and standing broad jump (121 inches) all were top-10 performances among the 34 linebackers on hand.

“I’m really happy with how I did,” said Robinson, who was an All-South Atlantic Conference performer at Newberry. “I was a little bit nervous; it feels like all eyes are on you with each drill. A lot of teams wanted to see how I would fit in with Division I players, to see if I could perform just as well as those guys.”

Robinson has dreamed of being a pro football player since he was a young boy obsessed with watching the NFL Network, and at St. John’s he was a do-it-all player who also excelled in basketball for the Islanders. But a couple of disappointments steeled his determination and helped him get this far.

Coming out of St. John’s, Robinson felt he had a scholarship offer to a Division I school. Just before signing date, the offer fell through. The Islanders’ coach at the time, James Waring, helped Robinson hook up with his alma mater, Newberry.

“Less than a week before signing day, he was told he would not get an offer from the school where we wanted him to go,” said John Olson, a former volunteer coach at St. John’s who has served as a mentor to Robinson. “I think he learned there that you can’t always believe what people tell you, and to make the best of every opportunity he has. I think he played with a chip on his shoulder at Newberry, and went there bound and determined to be the best player at Newberry.”

But two weeks into his first season at Newberry, Robinson suffered another disappointment. A broken ankle cost him his freshman season.

“At the time, he was devastated, and rightfully so,” Olson said. “But looking back, that event was what made it possible for him to be where he is now.”

The injury forced Robinson to take a medical redshirt his freshman season. That also enabled him to graduate last December, earning his degree in 4½ years and freeing him up to pursue his NFL dreams with a business administration degree already in hand. Robinson was able to train, play in the East-West Shrine Game and go to the NFL combine without essentially dropping out of school, as many NFL hopefuls have to.

“A player can’t be in school right now and be able to participate in all-star games and prepare for something as monumental as the combine,” Olson said. “So that injury gave him the ability to reorganize all of his credits and plan to graduate in December. I’d say less than 50 percent of the kids at the combine have graduated, because you’d have to do it in 3½ years if you were not redshirted along the line.”

If Robinson is selected in the 2015 draft, he’ll be the first Newberry player drafted since linebacker Greg Hartle went in the 10th round to the Cardinals in 1974. But there are currently three Newberry players in the NFL who made it as undrafted free agents: New York Giants receiver Corey Washington of North Charleston High School; linebacker Brandon Bostick, just picked up by the Minnesota Vikings; and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Ron Parker.

Robinson played with all three of those NFL players, boosting his own belief that he can make it in the league.

“I looked up to all three of those guys, and to see them make it really gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “They’ve been great about giving me advice and telling me how to approach certain situations. They all said that if they can make it, I can too.”