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Mark Robinson finds a home at linebacker, and a scholarship, with the Rebels

Mark Robinson finds a home at linebacker, and a scholarship, with the Rebels

OXFORD, Miss. — Two years ago, Mark Robinson was in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, attending Southeast Missouri State University and playing running back on the Redhawks’ FCS football team. Now he is in Oxford playing linebacker in the SEC, the best league in college football.

The Ol’ Switcheroo

The 5-foot-11-inch, 235-pound Leesburg, Georgia native, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, came to Ole Miss as a walk-on running back.

In his two seasons and 25 games at SEMO, Robinson rushed for 909 yards on 191 carries and tallied 11 rushing touchdowns. He also notched 14 receptions for 52 yards in his two seasons.

Mark Robinson (35) and Ole Miss Football vs Arkansas on October 9th, 2021 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss

But a funny thing happened when Robinson got to Ole Miss. The Rebels’ coaching staff saw something in Robinson that caught their eyes.

They believed he had the potential to be a very successful player in the SEC — just at a different position, on the other side of the ball at linebacker.

“It’s been a learning experience.” Robinson said Tuesday, about making the switch to linebacker. “But nonetheless, fun. I think, in my opinion, it’s just better. It fits me personally better.”

In the Rebels’ 52-51 win over Arkansas last Saturday, Robinson tied his career high with eight tackles in what was his second career start.

When making a transition like Robinson did, it is hard to simulate the speed of the game in practice. He was asked what he has learned about playing linebacker that is tough to learn in practice.  “I’d say the game just moves different,” he explained.

“As a fan you watch it, you don’t really know what’s going on, everything seems to move fast. Just knowing your assignment, it slows the game down a lot. It’s different for us being in the game than how it looks on film,” he added. 

Robinson was asked if he ever envisioned playing a different position at Ole Miss than the running back spot he came to play.

“Nah, I thought I would come in and take Snoop’s spot,” he said jokingly.

I talked to (running backs) coach (Kevin) Smith and these guys, you know that’s what comes with being at a program like this. They know what they see, so I just had to trust them that that was what was best for me to move to linebacker, for me to be the best player I wanted to be. I just had to trust and believe and keep working.

Mark Robinson on moving to linebacker

Life is but a dream

As many know, life has a funny way of putting people in situations in which they never thought they would find themselves. Robinson is no exception.

He was asked if he ever catches himself surprised where he is now versus where he was two years ago. The ultimate team player, Robinson responded sincerely.

For the most part. It’s been a long journey. I put a lot of work into it. Just the whole time, it was a lot of days I didn’t see a lot of results. It taught me how to be humble — even now that I’m in the position that I never thought I’d be here (starting as a LB in the SEC). I just go back to the things that got me here, stay humble and keep working, never be satisfied. Never get too high; never get too low.

Mark Robinson

It’s precisely that attitude – along with his talent – that helped Robinson earn go from walk-on to scholarship athlete at Ole Miss earlier this summer. Watch (below) when Robinson’s scholarship was announced.

Joining a friend

As is often the case, we find ourselves in certain places because of certain people in our lives.

Robinson talked about why he wanted to wear the Red and Blue and what made him choose the Rebels after he entered the transfer portal at SEMO.

“One of my closest friends, Otis Reese,” Robinson began as he talked about his former high school and current Rebel teammate. 

Otis has been close ever since we first met in high school. We always would be at home working out together at each other’s house. He was like, ‘Man, I think you’ll be good if you came up there to Ole Miss with me,’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know, man. That’s the SEC. I know they got guys, they don’t need me coming from SEMO’ ….but it just came down to my faith and believing in the work we put in. When I got here it was just uphill from there.

Robinson on his friendship with Otis Reese before coming to Ole Miss

As for Reese, he was asked earlier this season if he knew Robinson had some linebacker in him and if he is at all surprised by his contributions on defense.

Reese smiled when asked about his friend.

I’m not surprised by any success that guy has. He works extremely hard, one of the hardest working human beings I know. Next to me, he comes in and works hard and does whatever the coaches ask him to do. He’s a great leader for this team and a guy we love on this defense. A lot of guys feed off him so it’s a blessing to have him here.

Otis Reese on Mark Robinson

Heart of gold

In the first half of the season opener against Louisville, Robinson was called for a targeting penalty that disqualified him from the remainder of the game.

He made a great play on a running running play up the middle, meeting the running back in the hole and stopping him for little to no gain.

Robinson talked about that penalty and what it was like the rest of the game for him.  “It was tough,” he said.

I remember going back to the sideline just talking to God. I know He doesn’t make mistakes. In the moment, I wasn’t thinking about anything. I just went in to make a physical play to try to set the tone for our defense to show everybody how we were coming to play this year. When they did that (called targeting), I was (then) just trying to be there the best way I can from the sideline for my teammates.

Robinson on getting called for targeting against Louisville

That’s the mentality of a team player. We before me.

Hotty Toddy!

About The Author

Nick Filipich

Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss senior majoring in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.

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