Brad Robbins’ dad got a call two weeks before signing day.
On the other end? None other than Jim Harbaugh.
“My dad goes, ‘Oh hey, Jim!’ His voice cracked,” Robbins said Tuesday night. “It was priceless. Me and my brother were sitting in the other room just making fun of him.”
Now Michigan’s starting punter as a freshman, Robbins still recalled the conversation fondly almost one year later. How could he not? After all, he admitted he was “pretty shocked” the Wolverines even came calling.
But Harbaugh did. Then Chris Partridge and Jay Harbaugh visited his school. And on Feb. 1, Robbins faxed his national letter of intent to Ann Arbor — a tidy ending to a whirlwind recruitment.
“It all happened so fast,” he said. “It was unbelievable. I’m just happy I’m here.”
Originally, Robbins had picked Nevada after attending the team’s kicking camp before his senior season. But the Wolfpack finished 5-7 last year. The day after their season ended, head coach Brian Polian was let go along with the rest of his staff.
Robbins promptly decommitted — and began the recruitment process all over again.
Coaches weren’t able to reach out in the immediate aftermath because it was a dead period. So he took the initiative, attending more camps to gain exposure and hopefully a late offer.
It was a stressful time. His future was uncertain. But Robbins said he tried to stay level-headed.
“My parents gave me good advice,” Robbins said. “They reassured me that something would happen. I could walk-on somewhere, something was going to happen.”
Around January, a couple Big Ten schools reached out. Robbins spent nearly an entire month on the road, visiting unfamiliar campuses. Meanwhile, a couple kicking coaches he knew talked to Michigan’s staff and recommended his name. Then came the call from Harbaugh, and everything fell into place.
It didn’t take long for Robbins to make an impact for his new team, either. By the Purdue game, he had earned the starting job. For a team with an offense that has sputtered at times, Robbins takes part in crucial battles for field position. On the season, he’s punted 37 times with an average of 40.8 yards.
Robbins feels like he has played “decent.” But he has higher expectations for himself.
“I want to average like 60 yards, if I can,” Robbins said. “Over the past few games, I feel alright. But I don’t feel satisfied. I want to become more consistent. I want to help the defense out as much as I can. I want to put them in a really good position.”
Robbins’ numbers may not leap off the stat sheet. But what he has done is somewhat remarkable considering the transition he faced going to college. For one, Westerville South High School, situated northeast of Columbus, never had a special teams coordinator.
“I showed my coach in high school, I was like, ‘Look, I can do a pooch punt, I can go directional (punting),’ ” Robbins recalled, laughing. “ ‘No, just kick the crap out the ball.’ That was my high school advice.
“It changed when I got here. Expectations were way up here — especially with Kenny Allen leaving and him being as good as he was.”
Expectations from his fellow special teams members are higher, too. Robbins has developed a friendly rivalry with redshirt freshman kicker Quinn Nordin.
“We constantly chip at each other,” Robbins said. “We go back and forth. … I told him I’m going to kick field goals. He told me he’s going to take my job. It’s all good fun. He has a boot. He has a big leg, too.”
Nordin and his fellow kickers can dream of knocking in game-winning field goals. Robbins? He has other aspirations: placing a “perfect pooch punt” at the one-yard line, laying out a returner on the sideline and running for a touchdown after a bad snap.
Of course, that last scenario might give Michigan fans some pause.