By LARRY VAUGHT
Going into his high school freshman football season, Wandale Robinson already had some lofty goals for himself.
Before he ever played for Western Hills High School, he thought about the awards — Paul Hornung Award, Mr. Football, Gatorade Player of the Year — he hoped he could win as a senior.
Today he’s got his first award as the Louisville Quarterback Club picked Robinson as the 26th annual Paul Hornung Award winner. The award is named for Louisville native and Flaget High School star Paul Hornung who went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Notre Dame and the NFL MVP with the Green Bay Packers.
Hornung will present Robinson with the award Dec. 6th at Big Spring Country Club in Louisville.
“It definitely means a lot to win this award. I know the history about the award and how the Louisville Quarterback Club gives it to a guy in state in honor of Mr. Hornung, who was a great player,” said Robinson, who recently turned down offers from Alabama, Ohio State and others to verbally commit to Kentucky.
Robinson rushed for 1,973 yards and 30 touchdowns this year and caught 31 passes for 725 yards and 11 more scores. He had four returns for touchdowns along with 13 2-point conversions to finish with 284 points. That pushed his career scoring total to 812 points, second best ever in Kentucky.
He rushed for 6,796 career yards and 97 touchdowns and had 99 catches for 20 touchdowns and 1,758 yards in his career. He had 12 returns (kickoffs, punts, interceptions, fumbles) for scores. This season he had 119 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles and three interceptions. He’s ranked among the nation’s top 125 players in one recruiting service.
He has already been picked to play in the All-American Bowl Jan. 5 in San Antonio. Only 100 players are invited to play in the game that is nationally televised.
“That has also been a goal of mine since I found out about the bowl,” Robinson said. “It did surprise me a little bit when they called and asked if I would want to play because I didn’t know where I was on the national ranking scale with them. I told them it would be an honor to play in the game.”
Western Hills coach Don Miller says Robinson plays like a star but never has a “star” attitude about him.
“He is naturally gifted. No denying that,” Miller said. “He has taken every opportunity and made something positive happen. He has worked to make his dreams become a reality, never makes excuses or lets opportunity pass him by.”
Woodford County High School coach Dennis Johnson is a former Hornung Award winner. He thinks Robinson is a perfect choice for the award.
Johnson said not all players with exceptional talent also earn respect with how they play like Robinson does.
“He is just a good kid and someone you can really respect,” Johnson, who played at Kentucky and then briefly in the NFL, said. “If he gets hit hard, he will respect you. He is a great ambassador for our sport and our state. He’s a game breaker and just a rare, rare talent but also a really great kid. Even when you play against, you appreciate how he plays and can’t help admiring him.”
Boyle coach Chuck Smith is a former Kentucky linebacker and sent linebackers Wesley Woodyard, Avery Williamson, Bud Dupree, Josh Forrest and Micah Johnson to the NFL during his years as a Kentucky assistant coach. He’s now back winning state titles at Boyle County again but has admired what he’s seen from Robinson. He says Robinson is the best high school player he’s seen. Not one of the best, but the best.
“He has great balance, great vision, great speed. Very explosive,” Smith said. “When he runs the ball, he runs with the mentality that he is not trying to gain yards but that he is running to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball.
“He has gotten thicker and stronger over the last two years, he has always been special. I believe he will be great at the college level and can be a star player.”
Robinson’s father, Dale, says there is more to his son’s play than speed — even though he’s been clocked between 4.2 and 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“His vision and the way he plays the game are what makes him special,” said Dale Robinson, a star athlete at Franklin County High School. “He plays every snap like it is his last. That’s why he also plays defense all the time. He’s a competitor.”
Wandale Robinson plans to graduate next month and start classes at UK in January after the All-American Bowl. He took about a week off after his season ended but is back working out to stay ready for the bowl game now.
“I tried to just relax some because I’m really done with all the classes I need,” he said. “There are still people congratulating me about going to UK and stuff like that. I’m sure I will hear from a lot of people again after winning this award because I know how big this award is. It’s really something pretty special to win and I’m just thankful they picked me.”
Here’s a list of the previous Hornung Award winners.
2017 — Rondale Moore, Trinity.
2016 — Walker Wood, Lafayette.
2015 — Kash Daniel, Paintsville.
2014 — Damien Harris, Madison Southern.
2013 — Matt Elam, John Hardin.
2012 — James Quick, Trinity.
2011 — Patrick Towles, Highlands.
2010 — DeVante Parker, Ballard, and Lamar Dawson, Boyle County.
2009 — Austin Collinsworth, Highlands.
2008 — Rolandan “Deuce” Finch, St. Xavier.
2007 — Sam Robey, Trinity, and David Ulinski, Manual.
2006 — Doug Beaumont, Male.
2005 — Micah Johnson, Fort Campbell.
2004 — Curtis Pulley, Hopkinsville.
2003 — Brian Brohm, Trinity.
2002 — Michael Bush, Male, and Brian Brohm, Trinity.
2001 — Michael Bush, Male.
2000 — Montrell Jones, Male.
1999 — Montrell Jones, Male
1998 — Derek Smith, .Highlands.
1997 — Dennis Johnson, Harrodsburg.
1996 — Tony Driver, Male.
1995 — Tim Couch, Leslie County.
1994 — Chris Redman, Male.
1993 — Shaun Alexander, Boone County.