There’s still a long way to go for San Diego Lincoln’s power-packed running back to really get compared to the school’s two most famous running back alums, but for what he did in high school he matches one of them by being named as Mr. Football State Player of the Year. Robinson led the Hornets to the CIF D1-AA state title and had so many big games it is hard to believe that he wasn’t 100 percent for a lot of them.
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When big announcements like Mr. Football State Player of the Year for California are done, it’s usually the best thing happening on that day for the top honoree.
Not so for San Diego Lincoln’s Roderick Robinson, who is being named on the same day it turns out that he and his family will be welcoming a baby brother into the world.
Roderick himself has already graduated from Lincoln and was in freshman orientation on Friday at the University of Georgia. As a new student there and with the team getting ready to play TCU next Monday for the national championship in Los Angeles, any media interviews with him once he landed in Athens were not permitted.
Roderick’s father, Roderick Robinson Sr., however, was able to talk about the big honor. It’s just that he was busy at a local San Diego hospital getting ready for the impending birth of his son, Roman. Roderick’s step-mom, Azalea, was scheduled to give birth just a couple of hours after we talked to Roderick’s dad.
“On behalf of my son, I would like to thank God first and foremost for his many blessings over my son’s life,” Robinson Sr. said. “I would also like to thank Cal-Hi Sports for this amazing honor by naming him Mr. Football for the state of California.
“Last but not least I would like to thank our whole entire family, Roderick’s coaches at Lincoln, his teammates, the administrative staff at Lincoln, the Lincoln student body, all of the trainers Roderick has worked with, and the San Diego community. So many people have had a hand in helping Roderick grow into a successful young man.”
Roderick Jr. has been in the southeast part of the country before. His mother, Amber, and sister, McKenlee McKnight, are in Greer, S.C. There also are other extended family members, according to his father, in Georgia and Alabama.
Back in San Diego, just a couple of days after saying goodbye to Roderick Jr. as he embarked on his first journey to college, his dad and step-mom said hello to Roman. Roderick Sr. has three other sons — Rashad, 14, Riley, 8, and Reylin, 2.
Georgia was not the first college choice for Roderick Jr. He had committed last spring to UCLA, but after the summer and early fall season that he had there were many more major colleges looking to get him to switch.
“Every time one of those colleges came by to watch him, I think Ohio State was the last one, the coach would always leave after 20 or 30 minutes and would get on their phones, telling their head coach ‘We’ve got to get this guy,'” said Lincoln head coach David Dunn. “There wasn’t a kid like him in the country.”
There sure haven’t been many like Roderick in California and in San Diego. The last running back to be named Mr. Football was current NFL star Najee Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers for his junior season in 2015 at Antioch. The last CIF San Diego Section honoree was quarterback-running back-defensive back Dillon Baxter from Mission Bay of San Diego in 2009. That was one year after running back Tyler Gaffney of Cathedral Catholic was the honoree.
At Lincoln, of course, there’s more history than that. It is the only school in the nation that has had two NFL running backs earn MVP honors for a Super Bowl and become Hall of Famers — Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis. Allen also was a State Player of the Year. He was selected for the 1977 season, although he played quarterback for the Hornets at the time and not running back. Davis was a late bloomer who first went to Long Beach State and then ended up at — you guessed it — Georgia where he became an NFL prospect.
Others from San Diego who are on the all-time list of Mr. Football winners include Terry Rodgers of National City Sweetwater (1985), Wally Henry of Lincoln (1972), Charley Powell of San Diego (1950), Ervin “Cotton” Warburton of San Diego (1929) and Harold “Brick” Muller of San Diego (1916).
A Senior Season For The Ages
As a former player at Morse of San Diego when it had some of the top teams in the state in the early 1990s, Dunn knows how delicate it can be historically to compare a player coming out of high school like Roderick to someone like Marcus Allen, who isn’t just a Hall of Famer but probably the best running back in NFL history from California.
“I still have to put him up there,” Dunn said. “He has the maturity and athleticism and he’s 220 pounds. He could have been our top receiver, he could have played linebacker. Just overall he had the ‘it’ factor.”
Dunn and many others in San Diego have been perplexed that Robinson wasn’t selected to any of the two big All-American football games, including the one coming up on Saturday from San Antonio.
One theory is that those games have rosters chosen before anyone has even played in a senior season and are based more on what players did during their sophomore and junior seasons.
Robinson had just moved out to San Diego from South Carolina prior to the 2021 spring COVID season. His father said the initial plan was for him to go to Mater Dei (Santa Ana) or Helix (La Mesa) and there also was a plan for Roderick Jr. to live in El Centro and go to Central High. Roderick Sr. then settled in the San Diego area and Lincoln became the school.
As a junior, Robinson had some breakout games for the Hornets, but his totals for a Lincoln team that lost in the CIF San Diego Section D1 finals to Helix were a more modest 1,273 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“What probably most people didn’t know is that for the last seven games of last year is that Roderick suffered from a high ankle sprain,” Dunn said. “He had to be used more sparingly and it was hard for him to change direction. He still pushed through for nearly 1,300 yards.
“He came out this year in great shape and was ready to go.”
Despite a strange loss to Alemany of Mission Hills in which Lincoln QB K.J. Chatham was injured in the first quarter and a game in which Robinson had four touchdown runs called back, according to Dunn, running as a Wildcat quarterback, Robinson showed early on that he had and the Hornets were more than determined to win their first-ever CIF San Diego Section Open Division title.
That was never more apparent than when they took on 2021 CIF D2-AA state champion Mater Dei Catholic (and a team that would later win the same CIF state title) in the fourth game. Robinson took the ball 32 times and broke loose for 476 yards and eight touchdowns. Both totals earned places in the all-time state record book. There also was a 20-carry for 307-yard, three-TD outing in a win over State TOP 50 team St. Bonaventure of Ventura.
“The scary thing about Rod is that had he carried the ball 25 times per game he would have rushed for 300 or 400 yards all the time,” Dunn said. “He worked extremely hard and did the things that he needed to work on to get better. He just became such a force to be reckoned with.”
After the Hornets had gotten past Cathedral Catholic (the 2021 CIF D1-AA state champions) and Madison in their own Western League, they had gained their spot in the four-team Open Division section playoffs. Robinson suffered a hamstring injury in the first playoff game, also against Madison, but the Lincoln defense (led by DB Josiah Cox, LB David Peevy and LB Chris Fewell) stepped up in a 23-0 victory. Then in the section final against Carlsbad, Robinson ran for 117 yards on 22 carries in a 28-24 triumph against Carlsbad. That set up a SoCal D1AA regional matchup vs Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth and in that game Robinson led the way in a 37-14 victory with 16 carries for 181 yards and four touchdowns.
Dunn estimated that Robinson was still operating at only around 50 percent due to the hamstring injury when Lincoln took on De La Salle of Concord in an attempt to win the school’s first-ever CIF state title. The Spartans’ defense did a good job holding him down in the first half, but in the second half Robinson found some seams and even though it was obvious his breakaway speed was lacking (due to the injury) he still came up big with 218 yards rushing and four TDs as Lincoln held on for a 33-28 win.
For the season, Robinson ranked among the state leaders with 2,378 yards rushing and he had 39 total touchdowns. He also graduated with a 3.7 GPA.
“He didn’t practice at all for the last seven weeks of the season and still was able to do what he did,” Dunn said. “We had to tell him in that last game to stop jumping up and down after he scored. He could have hurt himself worse. But it’s just hard to tell a 17-year-old kid who is excited about something like that to settle down. Sometimes, you have to be happy and celebrate.”
For Roderick Robinson Jr., there’s certainly much to celebrate, both on and off the field.
MR. FOOTBALL STATE PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
ALL-TIME LIST OF HONOREES
(All selected by Cal-Hi Sports but done retroactively based on research prior to 1975 by our late founder, Nelson Tennis):
2022 — Roderick Robinson (Lincoln, San Diego) RB
2021 — Tetairoa McMillan (Servite, Anaheim) WR/DB
2020 — Raesjon Davis (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) LB*
2019 — DJ Uiagalelei (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) QB
2018 — Bru McCoy (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) WR
2017 — JT Daniels (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) QB (Jr.)*
2016 — Wyatt Davis (St. John Bosco, Bellflower) OL
2015 — Najee Harris (Antioch) RB (Jr.)
2014 — Jake Browning (Folsom) QB
2013 — Adoree’ Jackson (Serra, Gardena) WR-DB
2012 — Michael Hutchings (De La Salle, Concord) LB
2011 — Deontay Greenberry (Washington Union, Easton) WR-DB
2010 — Dano Graves (Folsom) QB
2009 — Dillon Baxter (Mission Bay, San Diego) QB-RB
2008 — Tyler Gaffney (Cathedral Catholic, SD) RB
2007 — Milton Knox (Birmingham, Lake Balboa) RB
2006 — Aaron Corp (Lutheran, Orange) QB
2005 — Toby Gerhart (Norco) RB
2004 — Desean Jackson (Poly, Long Beach) WR-DB-KR
2003 — Sean Norton (Hart, Newhall) QB
2002 — Whitney Lewis (St. Bonaventure) WR-RB
2001 — Derek Landri (De La Salle, Concord) OL-DL
2000 — Tyler Ebell (Ventura) RB
1999 — D.J. Williams (De La Salle, Concord) RB-LB
1998 — Kyle Boller (Hart, Newhall) QB
1997 — DeShaun Foster (Tustin) RB
1996 — Rod Perry (Mater Dei, Santa Ana) WR-DB
1995 — Chris Claiborne (J.W. North, Riverside) RB-LB
1994 — Daylon McCutcheon (Bishop Amat, La Puente) RB-DB
1993 — Keith Smith (Newbury Park) QB
1992 — Travis Kirschke (Esperanza, Anaheim) OL-DL
1991 — Amani Toomer (De La Salle, Concord) WR
1990 — Napoleon Kaufman (Lompoc) RB
1989 — Ryan Hancock (Monta Vista, Cupertino) QB
1988 — Tommie Smith (Antelope Valley, Lancaster) RB-DB
1987 — Bret Johnson (El Toro) QB
1986 — Russell White (Crespi, Encino) RB (Soph.)
1985 — Terry Rodgers (Sweetwater, National City) RB-KR
1984 — Aaron Emanuel (Quartz Hill) RB
1983 — Ryan Knight (Rubidoux, Riverside) RB
1982 — John Paye (Menlo School, Atherton) QB
1981 — Kevin Willhite (Cordova, Rancho Cordova) RB
1980 — Michael Alo (Banning, Wilmington) FB
1979 — Kerwin Bell (Edison, Huntington Beach) RB
1978 — John Elway (Granada Hills) QB
1977 — Marcus Allen (Lincoln, San Diego) QB
1976 — Freeman McNeil (Banning, Wilmington) RB
1975 — Charles White (San Fernando) RB
1974 — Myron White (Santa Ana Valley) RB
1973 — Frank Manumaluena (Banning, Wilmington) LB
1972 — Wally Henry (Lincoln, San Diego) RB
1971 — John Sciarra (Bishop Amat, La Puente) QB
1970 — Pat Haden (Bishop Amat, La Puente) QB
1969 — James McAlister (Blair, Pasadena) RB
1968 — Jesse Freitas (Serra, San Mateo) QB
1967 — Calvin Jones (Balboa, San Francisco) RB (Jr.)
1966 — Mickey Cureton (Centennial, Compton) RB
1965 — Greg Jones (South San Francisco) RB
1964 — George Buehler (Whittier) LB-OL
1963 — Tim Rossovich (St. Francis, MV) LB
1962 — Steve Grady (Loyola, Los Angeles) RB
1961 — Mike Garrett (Roosevelt, Los Angeles) RB
1960 — Kent Nance (Madera) RB
1959 — Willie Brown (Poly, Long Beach) RB
1958 — Daryle Lamonica (Clovis) QB
1957 — Jim Josephson (Bellarmine, San Jose) FB
1956 — Randy Meadows (Downey) RB
1955 — Mickey Flynn (Anaheim) RB (Jr.)
1954 — Dick Bass (Vallejo) RB
1953 — C.R. Roberts (Oceanside) RB
1952 — Ronnie Knox (Santa Monica) QB
1951 — Marty Keough (Pomona) RB
1950 — Charley Powell (San Diego) E
1949 — Paul Larson (Turlock) HB
1948 — Johnny Olszewski (St. Anthony, Long Beach) FB
1947 — Hugh McElhenny (L.A. Washington) FB
1946 — Al Pollard (L.A. Loyola) HB
1945 — Paul Haynes (Pasadena) HB
1944 — Jackie Jensen (Oakland) HB
1943 — Don Burnside (Grant, North Sacramento) QB
1942 — Glenn Davis (Bonita, La Verne) QB
1941 — Billy Agnew (Piedmont) HB
1940 — Tommy Fears (L.A. Manual Arts) E
1939 — Johnny Petrovich (Alhambra) QB
1938 — Jim Jurkovich (Fresno) FB
1937 — Frankie Albert (Glendale) QB
1936 — Mike Klotovich (San Francisco Mission) HB
1935 — Kenny Washington (L.A. Lincoln) QB
1934 — Doyle Nave (L.A. Manual Arts) HB
1933 — Vic Bottari (Vallejo) QB
1932 — Nello “Flash” Falaschi (Bellarmine, San Jose) HB
1931 — Larry Lutz (Santa Ana) T
1930 — Charles “Chili” Bertoli (Berkeley) HB
1929 — Ervin “Cotton” Warburton (San Diego) QB (Jr.)
1928 — Orv Mohler (Alhambra) QB
1927 — Gus Shaver (Covina) HB
1926 — Erny Pinckert (San Bernardino) FB
1925 — Francis Tappaan (Los Angeles) T
*Davis was a senior and played in five-game spring season in 2021. Daniels played as a junior during the 2017 season and is being listed as a junior for this list. He reclassified to senior status after the season with goal of graduating early.
Note: List continues back to 1890 in the Cal-Hi Sports Record Book & Almanac.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports