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Here's To You, Andrew Robinson

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Robinson-to-Williams has the potential to become the best tandem in the history of SU football.
-Me, December 4th, 2007

And it was true.  All you had to know was two specific games that season, Louisville and Cincinnati, and you would have agreed.

Louisville: Andrew Robinson (423 yards, 4 TDs), Mike Williams (5 catches, 83 yards, TD)

Cincinnati: Andrew Robinson (419 yards,  3 TDs), Mike Williams (9 catches, 160 yards, TD)

At the time, if you had told me that, two years later, one of them would have quit the team after returning from a suspension and the other would be languishing on the depth chart as a back-up tight end, well, I would have stabbed your eyes out with a shrimp fork.

But what would have been even more shocking is if you told me the one who got moved out of their position and demoted to the bottom of the pile never complained, did everything asked of him and became the model student by which all future Syracuse football players should measure themselves.

When the Orange play UConn on Sunday, Andrew Robinson will suit up for the final time in orange and blue.  He might get in on some special teams plays but that's about it.  Two other guys will be throwing the football.  A couple other guys will block and nab some catches from the tight end spot.  Through it all Andrew Robinson will not complain and will not pout.  He will show up for his teammates and support them.  He will be the very definition of senior leadership.

Doug Marrone might point to Greg Paulus as our leader and, as the starting quarterback, he might just be that.  All due respect to Doug and Greg, but Andrew Robinson has been this team's compass for three seasons, even if his best games are two years behind him.

Robinson came to SU by way of Maryland where he was honorable mention all-state, first-team All-MIAA, second-team All-Metro and second-team All-Baltimore County as a high school senior.  Not bad for a guy who had never played football before ninth grade.  That didn't stop then-coach Greg Robinson from recruiting Andrew:

"When I found out, I was like, 'Hmmm,' because I liked his poise," Greg Robinson said. "He has a good football sense to him. I really like him. He's pretty natural about how he learns and pretty intense about trying to get it right. The mind-set is, be the best you can be and get better for us. If he does, he'll be a good quarterback. I believe that."

In his first season, Andrew waited in line behind Perry Patterson, playing sparingly during blowouts. There were quite a few. 

In his sophomore season, Robinson took the reigns of the Syracuse offense.  It was a bittersweet year for Robinson since his career as a college quarterback was taking off but the Orange were in the midst of another terrible year under Greggers.  In his first game, Robinson put up decent stats, 20-for-32 for 199 yards and a touchdown.  He had good games and bad games, just like any young QB.  Then the Louisville game happened...

Robinson's 423 yard performance was, and still is, the 2nd-best passing day in SU history.  His four touchdowns tied the SU mark and earned him the Big East Offensive Player of the Week notice. His 79-yard touchdown pass to Taj Smith, the first SU play from scrimmage, was the longest passing play for SU since 2002.  Syracuse was a national story and the image of Robinson jumping for joy became the representation of Syracuse football.  Andrew Robinson had arrived.

The Orange quickly came back to Earth and continued to struggle all season long.  Every other game or so, Robinson would string together a solid performance.  No small feat considering the lack of protection he was getting from his offensive line.  He threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns against Miami (OH).  158 yards and a TD against Rutgers.  And in the season finale, Robinson once again tantalized SU fans with his potential, throwing for 419 yards and three TDs.  His 47 attempts are an SU record and 29 completions tied him with Marvin Graves all-time.  Robinson earned Big East Honor Roll accolades that week and, if nothing else, provided Orange fans with a glimpse into a better future.  He and fellow sophomore Mike Williams were about to embark on a two-year journey that would rewrite the Syracuse record books.

Something funny happened on the way to Andrew's junior year.  Maybe it was the yips.  Maybe it was one too-many hits courtesy of the porous offensive line.  Maybe it was a Russian gypsy curse.  Maybe it was something we'll never know.  Whatever it was, Andrew's game betrayed him. 

It started innocently.  Robinson was designated the first-string quarterback but not named the starter right away. How could this be?  How could a guy who threw for 400 yards on two different occasions not automatically get the nod over a collection of unproven QBs?

By the time the Northwestern game came around to start the season, there was no denying it...Andrew Robinson had regressed.  Or at least, he was not the same.  As if he already knew this going in, Greg Robinson immediately announced that Cameron Dantley would be the new starting quarterback for the Orange the following week.  Robinson played in three more games that year, all either in garbage or injury time. 

This past season, his senior year, there was little expectation that Robinson would be able to regain his old job.  Dantley returned for his senior year and redshirt freshman Ryan Nassib was waiting in the wings.  By the fifth spring practice it became official that Nassib would end up being the starter (later replaced by transfer Greg Paulus).  What was truly unexpected was what happened to Robinson...he was moved to tight end.

Tight end?  TIGHT END?  Have you seen this guy?  He's not beanpole but he's no Arthur Jones either.  It was the kind of move that makes players up and quit, and given the kind of upheaval the Orange's roster has gone through, it would not have been strange had Robinson decided this just wasn't for him.  Of course, Robinson made the kind of decision we've come to expect from him...he decided to grind it out. 

He bulked up.  He learned the skills necessary.  He put his head down.  Most of all, he never ever complained.

Robinson was never really able to make much of a dent on the tight end depth chart.  Originally slated as a 4th-string TE, Robinson was able to help the team more through special teams, be it as a holder or on coverage. Because of that, he played in every game unlike last season.  And because of his commitment off the field to doing well, he was named a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame 2009 William V. Campbell Trophy which recognizes "an individual for his combined academic success, football performance and exemplary community leadership."  Sounds like him.

Despite only playing one full season at QB, Robinson leaves behind quite a few records and notable performances.  His two 400-yard games are the 2nd and 3rd best single SU passing performances of all time.  He ranks fifth on Syracuse’s career passing yards per game list (138.3 yards per game). He holds the record for most attempts in a game (47) and is tied for most completions (29). His 2007 season was among the best in SU history in terms of passing yards (2,192 yards, ranks fifth), completions (154, sixth), passing yards per game (199.3, fifth), touchdown passes (13, ninth), and pass attempts (292, third).

Doug Marrone does not use the word "tremendous" lightly.  Okay, actually he uses it extremely lightly.  He pretty much works it into every sentence.  But if you think of it in terms of how important that word is to him, then it should be no surprise at all to know that Marrone calls Andrew "a tremendous, tremendous person." There is no greater praise you can receive from the big man.

It's funny that Robinson and Mike Williams were linked on the field because the way they handled themselves off the field is intrinsically linked as well.  Andrew had every right to last out and be bitter with the way things ended up, yet he never did.  Mike Williams had every reason to be on top of the world and yet he'll be remembered almost as much for his pouting and how he quit on his teammates and himself.

If Andrew Robinson got angry and emotional about his treatment on the SU team, that wouldn't have been unexpected.

If Andrew Robinson posted messages on his Facebook alluding to the fact that he was unhappy, no one would have blamed him.

If Andrew Robinson consistently broke team rules, we'd know why.

If Andrew Robinson quit the team, we would have understood.

But it was Mike Williams, the team's super-duper star, who did all of that while Robinson quietly went about his business.  Andrew will graduate and he will never play professional football. Williams will go on to play professional football and probably become a millionaire.  Not saying that's wrong or unfair, it's just the way the cards have been dealt. 

Five years from now, Mike Williams will probably be something of a known quantity around the country.  At the very least, he'll be a name on a fantasy football add/drop list.  Andrew Robinson will have disappeared from the nation's consciousness long before then, probably already has.  But I guarantee you that, five years from now, if you see both of them walking on the Syracuse quad, you'll shake Andrew's hand first. 

We appreciate what Mike Williams did at SU, but we admire Andrew Robinson.  And we always will.

Donnie Webb Talk With Andrew Robinson