By LARRY VAUGHT
He worked with the Lexington Herald to have a commitment video ready starting in August. However, Western Hills star Wandale Robinson didn’t know then he was going to commit to Kentucky like he did Thursday.
Instead, he shot scenes where he committed to each of his six finalists — Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, Purdue and Nebraska.
He said during his announcement at the high school his final choice was “up in the air” as he weighed all the factors he could into a final choice before picking UK over Nebraska. He said Kentucky was “trending upward” this year with a 7-1 mark and No. 11 national ranking — No. 9 in the college football playoffs ratings — going into Saturday’s home game with Georgia where a win would put UK into the SEC championship game.
He hopes his verbal commitment sends a strong message about Kentucky football, especially since many of the state’s best players have opted for out of state schools the last three years.
“I want to be part of it,” he said.
Only a handful of people knew his final choice before the video let everyone know it would be Kentucky and the students, family and friends inside the Western Hills gym erupted into a loud roar. He didn’t even tell Kentucky coach Mark Stoops or recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow who he was choosing but both quickly tweeted messages indicating they were excited (coaches cannot comment on recruits until after signing day in February).
“This process has been going on a long time and I am glad to get it over with. I talked to coaches every day,” Robinson said. “I had a good relationship (with Kentucky). I have been recruited by them since my sophomore year. They pushed the hardest and I felt they had a need for a player like me.
“Being close to home was not a super big one (reason to pick UK) but it was big knowing my family can watch me play and I can come home any time. But that was not the biggest factor.”
It didn’t hurt that former UK quarterback Freddie Maggard, who was hired this year as UK’s director of player development, had talked to the Western Hills team at the start of Robinson’s sophomore season. Kentucky hiring him impressed Robinson who said “big things” started happening then and trusted Maggard when he told him he would be there to help him with life after football.
Robinson has averaged 11.2 yards per run on 597 attempts while gaining 6,666 yards and scoring 95 touchdowns in his career. He has 93 career catches for 1,555 yards and 19 more touchdowns. He has completed 15 of 22 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns. He has eight kick return touchdowns (five kickoffs, three punts) and 772 career points. He leads the state in rushing, touchdowns and points scored this year and is third in total yards — the only non-quarterback in the top 10 in total yards.
On defense, he has 254 career tackles, nine interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and three quarterback sacks. He’s second in the state in total tackles this year.
One has to wonder if the huge game sophomore receiver/returner Lynn Bowden had at Missouri Saturday in UK’s 15-14 win impacted Robinson. He was looking for an offense that fit him and he’s a similar multi dimensional player like Bowden, who had a 67-yard punt return for a score and 13 catches for 166 yards at Missouri.
“Using Lynn and me on the other side could be a good combo,” Robinson said. “Then you have (quarterback) Terry (Wilson) running.”
He hopes his commitment will lead other in-state players to commit to UK — or maybe even switch a commitment to UK.
“If you go in and do what you are supposed to do you will not want for anything if you stay here (in Kentucky),” Robinson said. “You can have a really big impact outside of football.
He plans to “reach out” to several recruits and says he already knows most of the state’s top players and already talks to some of them.
He became the third top-10 player in Kentucky’s 2019 class to make a commitment to play for Stoops after Shawnkel Knight-Goff (Doss, defensive end) and Demontae Crumes (Butler, wide receiver), did earlier. Three-star lineman Eli Cox (West Jessamine) has also given UK a verbal commitment.
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Western Hills (7-3) opens the Class AAA playoffs at Lawrence County Friday. A win would likely send Western Hills to face defending state champion and unbeaten Boyle County for the second time this season in the second round of the playoffs.