By LARRY VAUGHT
If you had told me in August or September that the state’s most highly touted football player, Wandale Robinson of Western Hills, would play his college football at Nebraska, I would not have been surprised.
It seemed like every time I talked to him, his affection for Nebraska coach Scott Frost got stronger and stronger. He never said anything negative about Kentucky, Alabama, Ohio State, Purdue or any other school recruiting him, but he always seemed to just light up talking about Frost and the offense at Nebraska even though the Cornhuskers were struggling to win games this year.
But when it got to October and then November, he talked more about other schools and not as much about Nebraska. When he eventually gave his verbal commitment to UK in a major ceremony in his high school gym, it didn’t surprise me and the video of the Kentucky coaches celebrating showed just how important his commitment was to UK.
He’s already been named Mr. Football by the state’s high school coaches and the Paul Hornung Award winner from the Louisville Quarterback Club that goes to the state’s top player. He’s been picked to play in the All-American Bowl, one of just 100 players nationally to get that honor.
But now he’s not going to Kentucky. Instead, Robinson — who ran for 1,973 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2018 and had 725 receiving yards and 11 more scores — flipped his verbal commitment to Nebraska today and then posted on twitter that his recruiting was totally shut down.
“Throughout this whole recruiting process I’ve always been told, ‘Do what’s best for you. You have to life your life for you and nobody else. Just follow your heart.’ Those words of advice got away from me as my verbal commitment date neared. I got overwhelmed by the pressure from outside influences, the pressure of staying home, and the pressure of trying to please everyone. Most people don’t realize the stress that goes on with recruiting, especially when it’s from your home state and everyone wants you to go there. Staying home is something I would have loved to do, but unfortunately my heart just isn’t there,” Robinson posted on Twitter.
He obviously knows his flip from Kentucky to Nebraska — which runs a much more wide-open passing offense that Kentucky — will upset UK fans.
“It was never my intention to hurt or mislead anyone or play any sort of game,” he posted also.
Robinson told me a week ago that the only way he would not honor his commitment to UK was if coach Mark Stoops left. He told myself and several other media members Tuesday after he received his All-American jersey that he would sign with UK, enroll for the second semester and was still trying to recruit other players to also come to Kentucky.
Robinson is an explosive, game-changing player much like Purdue freshman Rondale Moore of Louisville who had a great first collegiate season. He could contribute immediately on special teams as a return specialist but could also be a big-time playmaker at receiver immediately as well.
His high school coach, Don Miller, posted on social media after Robinson’s flip that his “initial decision was made because he cares so much for those who have supported him over the years and wanted to make everyone happy. As time went on, he realized that while his decision made everyone else happy, it never felt like it was the right choice for him.”
Miller said Robinson decided to “follow his heart” and hopes that others understand he’s a high school student trying to make a “huge life decision” for himself.
“I am asking everyone else to be supportive, understanding and respectful of his decision. He is, and always will be, one of the best players to ever play the game of football in the state of Kentucky and I hope our state continues to be proud of him and cheer for and support him no matter what uniform he wears,” Miller posted on social media.
Robinson’s flip comes the same day that Southeastern Conferences coaches named Stoops the SEC coach of the year and one day before Ballard linebacker Jared Casey is expected to verbally commit to UK. A week ago Louisville Moore defensive end J.J. Weaver, another four-star player, also committed to UK.
Casey’s commitment would give UK 20 commits in the 2019 recruiting class even without Robinson.