By Gary Lloyd
The recruitment of a couple former Pinson Valley football players since February 2012 is an interesting story, their roles almost reversed.
Wide receiver Earnest Robinson has been a can’t-miss talent since he first stepped on a football field, who would play big-time college football. Linebacker Zach Cunningham wasn’t as well known.
A year ago, Robinson was already committed to play at Auburn, also holding offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee and others. A year ago, Cunningham had one offer, from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Both had big junior and senior seasons. Robinson caught 51 passes for 900 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. In his career, he totaled 106 receptions for 1,976 yards and 33 scores. Cunningham finished his junior season with 152 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks and three forced fumbles. As a senior, Cunningham was named the Class 5A Lineman of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association after racking up 194 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, blocking four punts and intercepting a pass, which he returned for a touchdown.
“By the time the season was over, (Cunningham) had 50-plus offers and about eight from the SEC,” said Pinson Valley head coach Matt Glover.
Cunningham on National Signing Day earlier this year signed with Vanderbilt over Auburn, Tennessee and Oregon. He also had offers from Miami, Ole Miss, UCLA, Texas, Troy and UAB, among others. Robinson signed with Auburn.
However, Robinson failed to qualify, and is now at East Mississippi Community College. He had the ACT score to qualify at Auburn, but he needed to raise his core grade point average to get into the university. He took three classes this summer as part of a credit recovery program at Center Point High School.
“I learned a lot this past offseason about how the recruiting process goes, how it’s a cut-throat business,” Glover said.
Glover said he’s now made a form for ninth-grade players and their parents, a mock transcript of sorts that shows how the NCAA looks at grade-point averages and ACT scores. He tells parents how student-athletes aren’t messing up their junior and senior years, that it’s those freshman and sophomore years before they’re offered scholarships where the problem is. The first two years of high school is when Robinson had some grade problems.
“When they get that offer as a junior, they say it’s time to buckle down now, but it’s too late,” Glover said.
He tells players what is expected of them in the classroom. He involves the parents, letting them know of the expectations, too. He uses Robinson as an example of what can happen when grades aren’t where they should be.
“I don’t ever want to see a child have an opportunity and not get it,” he said.
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