TUCSON, Ariz. — Bijan Robinson is many things. The five-star running back from Salpointe Catholic is a great football player. And a leader on campus. And a devout Christian. He’s also a germaphobe. And that fear of germs in part helped the Longhorns land the third-ranked running back in the entire 2020 class for a simple reason: Texas players get their own dorm.
“That boy puts on gloves to take out the trash,” chuckled Robinson’s mom, LaMore Sauls. “He was terrified to share a room with other athletes. He wanted his own bathroom.”
It was a long route to Austin for Robinson. He included Texas among his top schools only because Salpointe head coach Dennis Bene offered to take him to the UT spring game. Robinson had never been to the state of Texas before that trip in late April, but it would help alter the course of his life.
“I had never been there, so it wasn’t a high priority. Then we went to the spring game,” Robinson said. “From the beginning of the trip, it was all love. It took me by surprise.”
Robinson and his coach hung out with the team, joined the running backs in a meeting before the game and met a certain Hollywood star on the field before kickoff when Matthew McConaughey approached them as the team warmed up.
“I didn’t know who Matthew McCounahey was, but he started walking towards me and my coach before the spring game,” Robinson said. “My coach was shocked. It was a big fanboy moment for him, and that was great. It was one of those things that showed me how important football is at Texas.”
Robinson is the only five-star in Texas’ 2020 class, which ranks sixth in the nation and consists of 18 prospects. The 6-foot, 200-pound playmaker rushed for more than 2,000 yards in each of the past two seasons, even beating out current UT receiver Jake Smith for the Ed Doherty Award, which is the equivalent of Arizona’s Heisman Trophy. Winning that award last year put Robinson on Texas’ radar. Meeting running backs coach Stan Drayton at the spring game solidified UT’s chances of landing Robinson.
“The first time I met coach Drayton was a huge deal,” he said. “He knows what he is doing, and not just with football. He knows how to help you as a man and after football. I really enjoyed how he presented himself to me. Coach Drayton was the realest one throughout the whole process.”
Robinson picked Texas on Aug. 2. The five-star admitted to silently committing to Ohio State in the weeks leading up to his decision.
“Ohio State was wanting me to commit because they were passing on some other running backs,” Robinson said. “I felt like I needed to go there, so I just called them and told them I was committing. It wasn’t a happy feeling. I knew Texas was where my heart was at and I didn’t commit to Ohio State for me. I sat on it for a week and then called Ohio State to let them know I wasn’t going there.”
Texas was thrilled to land the life-long football junkie. Robinson’s mom tells stories of him taking a little football to his first haircut when he was just one year old. He used to cut the pictures out of programs brought home by his grandfather, an official in the PAC-12, to use as football players. The best gift was a set of mini-helmets that he quickly began using as football players. His field was a blue table owned by his grandmother that Robinson refuses to allow her to sell because of sentimental value.
“He’s always wanted to be a football player. I finally let him play flag football when he was getting into school and he scored the first touchdown of the game,” LaMore said. “Unfortunately, he was so excited that he ran the opposite way and scored for the other team. He’s been scoring touchdowns the right way ever since.”
Robinson picked up his first offer before he could drive a car. His offer list grew to 21, but it might as well be 100. It’s not just his running ability that brought coaches from around the country to his high school in Tucson. Robinson has caught 30 passes in his high school career.
“Being versatile is the most important thing to modern running backs,” he said. “NFL teams are starting to go towards the versatile backs instead of power backs who are one-dimensional. It helps the team to catch, run, and block. All running backs should do all three.”
Bene said the most rewarding part of coaching high school football is watching a kid arrive on campus who leaves as a young man. The staff at Salpointe know Robinson is a special player. They also respect him as a person and a student.
“Bijan is a great classmate and an extraordinary teammate. That may be the most special thing about him. He’s so humble and treats everyone with respect,” Bene said. “The adults on campus love him. His smile lights up a room.”