MUNCIE, INDIANA — Branden Robinson, a 2017 graduate of Covington High School, never gave up on his dream of playing college football – and after a lot of hard work and a long wait his dream has come to fruition after a successful walk-on tryout at Ball State University.
“It’s pretty sweet,” said Robinson after he received the acceptance call from Ball State’s Director of Player Personnel, Tilmon Clark on Wednesday, October 25th – Branden’s 19th birthday. “I knew I had a good tryout and I thought I had a good chance (to make the team) when they asked me for my class schedule.”
The sport of football has always been a passion for Robinson. It started at a very young age as he took advantage of every chance he could to be on the sideline at high school football games as a water boy and that passion increased when he began playing the sport for the first time as a fourth grader in the Covington Little Buccs program. With each passing year his love for the game intensified, leading to extra training at Enhance U under the direction of former NFL player Tramain Hall throughout much of his junior high and high school football years.
It all led to an outstanding high school career where Robinson was a four-year letter winner at Covington on four state playoff teams – three under former Buccaneer coach Dave Miller and one under current coach Tyler Cates. He finished his high school career as one of the most versatile players in recent history as he excelled at several positions – slotback, halfback, quarterback, wideout, corner, safety, and as a kicker and return specialist on special teams. He earned All-Ohio honors as a senior and was selected to play in the Miami Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star Game this past June.
Yet, once his high school career was over he wasn’t sure if he’d ever have the opportunity to put the pads on again. After all, none of the schools who had shown interest in him had Robinson’s major of choice – Construction Business Management.
“I received letters from a lot of division two and division three schools, but none of them fitted my major,” Robinson said. “So I focused on looking at schools from an academic perspective. I kind of knew I wasn’t going to get an athletic scholarship because I am from a small school, so I focused on the academic scholarships.”
Robinson, who graduated high school with a 3.789 GPA, researched schools online and eventually narrowed down his choices to Appalachian State and Ball State after visiting each respective campus. He ultimately chose Ball State due to the academic scholarships the university offered.
And once he decided Ball State University was his college of choice, Robinson contacted the Cardinal coaching staff to learn about the process of trying out for the football team as a walk-on.
“When I first talked to them they told me the roster was already full (for 2017) and that I should contact them once I arrived on campus for the fall semester,” Robinson explained. “I didn’t know how the walk-on process worked, so I had to wait until I was actually a Ball State student.”
In the meantime Robinson finished his senior year of high school five months early and in January he began working at Milcon Concrete in Troy. He also set up a grueling training regimen with Buccaneer assistant coach Jason Sutherland to help him prepare for the day opportunity hopefully presented itself.
“We worked on a lot of speed, strength and flexibility,” said Sutherland. “Most of it was football related – drills to improve core strength and explosiveness – things I learned in college.”
From the beginning of January through the end of July, Robinson woke up for work between 2:30 and 4:00 in the morning – and he’d still manage to get in two to three hours of training after working at Milcon until 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.
“He works harder than any kid I’ve seen,” Sutherland continued. “I grew up and played high school ball in Vandalia and ran track in college. From my experience, you might get a handful of kids who work that hard, but not very many.”
“Branden is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever coached,” he said. “Off the field – great kid who gets good grades and works very hard. On the field – he just wants to hit somebody. You love kids like that.”
Robinson reported to Ball State for classes in mid-August and immediately connected with the coaching staff to find out when he could participate in the walk-on tryout he had prepared so hard for. Unfortunately, he learned he had to wait two more months for the opportunity to showcase his skills.
Undeterred, he continued to train on his own at the campus recreation center to prepare the best he could for the opportunity.
“He did a lot of stuff on his own,” Sutherland explained. “We talked a lot and I gave him some workouts to do, but he pretty much trained himself for two months at Ball State. Think about that – he had a full class schedule and still had the dedication to train all by himself for two or three hours a day. Not too many kids will do that. That shows a lot of determination.”
With his walk-on tryout finally set for Thursday, October the 12th, Robinson showed up at Scheumann Stadium on the campus at Ball State University to showcase his talents with other aspiring players competing for spots. And despite the odds, Robinson showed enough promise to impress the coaches, which led to the phone call from Coach Clark.
“I was so pumped when I finally received the call from Coach Clark,” said Robinson. “After he told me I made the team, I was pacing, calling and texting everyone back home – everyone I could think of. It’s hard to explain all of the emotions I felt, but it was an awesome feeling and I just wanted to share it with the people who supported me.”
One of those calls was made to Covington head football coach Tyler Cates.
“When Branden called and told me he made the team, I was so excited for him because I know how much it means to him,” Cates said. “It’s great he is following through on his dream and Ball State is giving him that chance. Ball State just got a really good young man and a stinkin’ good football player.”
Cates feels Robinson has what it takes to have an impact on the Ball State program.
“I told him, ‘You’re not done yet – now go get playing time’, and he agreed,” Cates continued. “It’s going to be tough because he’s starting at the bottom as a walk-on guy and has to climb his way up the ladder – up the depth chart. I know he’s going to do that and I have confidence he’ll stick it out and give it his best. His heart is what’s going to separate him. Branden has that football tenacity – something you can’t teach kids. I think that’s what they (Ball State) saw in him during the tryout.”
And Robinson is excited about the opportunity Ball State is giving him once he completes the Ball State compliance process.
“I really don’t know yet what they have planned for me, but I’m just happy they (Ball State) are giving me a chance,” he said. “I already looked and we play at Notre Dame next year. That would be so awesome to walk out onto the field at Notre Dame. I’ve seen it in the movies and it would be awesome to experience it.”
First, Robinson can’t wait to experience putting on the pads once again – this time as a collegiate football player at the Division I level.
“I can’t wait,” he said in regards to putting pads on again. “I’ve played football since pee wee and this year has been really tough not knowing if I was ever going to make it (the Ball State team). Hopefully I can get on the field next year and help the team win games.”
If hard work and dedication is any indication, he’ll do just that.