On National Signing Day, Brad Robbins didn’t have a scholarship.
He wasn’t at a table putting on a hat, he wasn’t on the phone with a coach and he wasn’t taking the day off as some sort of athletic holiday. He was sitting in AP U.S. Government class when he got the news.
It came as a text from his sister, Brooke Robbins: Hey, congrats on the scholarship to Michigan! That’s really cool! Surprised, Brad stepped out of class to call his dad, who confirmed Brooke’s message: A scholarship opened in the Michigan football program. In the hallways of Westerville South High School, Brad simultaneously took it all in and made his decision:
He was going to be a Wolverine.
At home that night, Brad ended the day accordingly: While in the shower, he blasted “The Victors” — Michigan’s fight song — as loud as he could on his bluetooth speaker.
His dad knocked on the door.
“Hey, man, we’re gonna have to ease into this a little bit.”
Brad was born Oct. 6, 1998 to two Buckeyes, Eric and Kristi Robbins, with Ohio Stadium patently visible from the hospital. Just 10 miles away from that stadium stood the Robbins family home in Westerville, Ohio.
Both parents graduated from Ohio State, and they bled scarlet and gray. That transferred to their kids — two out of three of them, at least. Brad was never really much of a Buckeyes fan.
“It’s religion down there,” Brad told The Daily. “Those people (in Columbus) are crazy. To be honest, I was never big into Ohio State. I never really went to any games. I never really cared.”
Brad was too busy to care. He was a four-sport athlete — playing baseball, basketball and soccer in addition to football — and enjoyed playing guitar when he had the chance. Watching sports in general was “a waste of time,” in Brad’s eyes. He was all about doing.
That attitude paid dividends. He excelled in baseball, could dunk a basketball, and everyone’s seen how well he can kick a ball. Hands down, Brad was an athlete, but it wasn’t until his senior year that he got noticed for it.
At a kicking camp run by Brandon Kornblue — a respected talent evaluator and former Wolverine — just down the road in Xenia, Ohio, Brad made his first impression.
“Brad was like, if he was a baseball player to use a metaphor, he could throw 100 miles an hour,” Eric told The Daily. “And when you go to a camp, a showcase in baseball, if you can throw 100 miles an hour you stick out amongst the average people.”
Without a doubt, Brad stuck out, and Kornblue noticed and pegged him as the nation’s No. 1 punter. That night, Brad had a scholarship offer from Nevada.
That’s as atypical as it gets. Normally a punter has to go to camps starting in middle school, attend multiple a year, then hope and pray they get noticed by scouts.
Brad did it all in one day.
But, after Wolf Pack coach Bill Polian was fired in 2016, the new regime didn’t pay attention to Brad. His scholarship wasn’t pulled, but contact was minimal, and Reno was no longer the right place for him.
Meanwhile, Kornblue called Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh directly, advocating for Brad. Harbaugh and his advisers were in need of a punter, looking at the graduate transfer route. But with film and Kornblue’s recommendation, Brad became their guy.
The problem was, they didn’t have a scholarship to offer. Harbaugh promised one would open up, but nothing was in writing — nothing was guaranteed.
So Brad trekked on, attending the punting camps that he ever-so-hated. At a Jamie Kohl kicking camp in Atlanta, another renowned evaluator, Brad’s seemingly underground talent was once again realized.
“The same thing happened that happened at the Kornblue camp,” Eric said. “By noon the first day on Saturday, Jamie Kohl goes, ‘Who the heck are you guys? If you were here a month ago he’d be punting for Alabama.’ ”
Brad averaged over 45 yards and 5.0 seconds of hang time per punt — stellar, even for kickers at the next level. A clip of Brad punting got in the hands of scouts, and the offers started to flow.
“What happened the next week, they started all flying in and getting him out of study hall,” Eric said. “(They) put a bag of footballs on the field — it’s snowing (in) January — and they see him punt about 20 balls and then they get on the phone with the head coach and then say, ‘Yep, you got a scholarship.’ ”
Now, the pressure was on. While the offers flooded, so did the demands.
“There were some coaches from other programs saying like, ‘Hey, you got to commit now or we’re gonna pull your offer and we’re gonna give it to somebody else,’ ” Brad said.
Brad didn’t like that. So he waited.
“They were literally turning down Big Ten scholarship offers with the hope — nothing guaranteed because nothing was in writing — that Michigan was gonna offer whenever one came open,” Kornblue said.
Brad and the Robbins family weathered the storm. Then, on signing day, it all paid off.
However, there was one last hurdle: a family as attached to Ohio State as the word “The.”
With two Buckeye alumni as parents and siblings — especially his brother, Eric Robbins Jr. — devoted to the scarlet and gray, having a Wolverine in the house was a bit of a “shock,” as his mother Kristi put it. Nobody besides Brad was ready to flip allegiances on a dime.
Brad had to unite them over something they all loved: him.
“It was pretty easy to convert them into being Michigan fans,” Brad said. “It’s very easy for them to be ‘me’ fans, right? Like fans of me.”
With Brad as the anchor, his family started becoming Wolverines.
“I think I fully converted them into being Michigan fans for life just throughout the journey,” Brad said. “2017 all the way up until now how the program shifted and how it’s changed and how the culture shifted and culture changed. … I think they’re fully converted, but we still gotta do some convincing on my brother’s part.”
Eric Jr., while wearing his brother’s Michigan jersey to games, still has Ohio State socks hidden underneath his layer of clothes, a last bit of defiance in his conversion. But for Brad, the whole family found a way to get on board, one way or another.
Sitting in Schembechler Hall, wearing an “Anti Buckeye Social Club” hoodie, there’s no way to tell that Brad is from Columbus or from a family full of Buckeyes. After signing day, he was all in on Michigan as if he was born with the Big House in sight.
For the other Robbins, it may have taken some easing into it. But at this point, it doesn’t matter — they all bleed maize and blue.