Correction appended: June 7, 2012
Northview High School (Century, Fla.) defensive back Neiko Robinson has a knack for calling people “sir.” But on the football field, he carries no such formality.
Robinson is a three-star, playmaking free safety who would rather catch the football than break it up, but can also be a physical back who “loves to use his shoulder pads,” according to Sid Wheatley, his high school coach. In mid-May, Robinson caught the attention of Penn State defensive coordinator Ted Roof.
In fact, Robinson impressed Roof so much that Penn State was the first major BCS program to make an offer to the junior.
Penn State had the same effect on Robinson, though he had never visited, and he saw no reason to wait. He called Nittany Lions coach Bill O’Brien to verbally accept, becoming the first Penn State recruit out of Florida since 2001.
“When he was talking to coach O’Brien the other night, he just couldn’t believe it,” Wheatley said. “He seems very comfortable with his decision.”
Robinson had only two offers, from UAB and North Texas, before Penn State reached out to him. However, several ACC and SEC schools, especially Florida State, were beginning to show interest.
“If Florida State offered to me, I wouldn’t just reconsider,” Robinson said. “It was a well thought-out process. The only way I would go anywhere else is if it was a better decision for me.
“But right now, I’m all Penn State.”
Robinson added Penn State’s tradition is what drew him most to the university.
The new commit said he doesn’t feel he made the decision too hastily, even with potential offers from similar FBS programs on the horizon. Wheatley echoed those sentiments. He said Robinson had called Penn State one of his dream schools.
Wheatley made sure Robinson knew he had plenty of time to mull such a big decision over, but he could pull the trigger if he was sure. Wheatley said he backs Robinson’s decision completely, and “[Robinson] really feels committed to it.”
Robinson is currently listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, with a reported sub-4.5 second 40-yard dash. Wheatley raved about Robinson’s field intelligence and leadership.
“He plays the game of football the way it’s supposed to be played,” Wheatley said. “He refuses to be beaten. He refuses to lose that sort of mentality that I think you need to succeed.”
On the field, Wheatley said he lets Robinson quarterback the secondary. After the snap, he gives Robinson free reign to pursue the football and force turnovers. He said he also uses his free safety as a returner on special teams.
In the open field, Robinson isn’t afraid to tackle with an aggressiveness that trivializes his mere 170 pounds, which Wheatley said contradicts his polite personality.
“He’s really a quiet, soft-spoken kid off the field,” Wheatley said. “But when he steps on the field, the lights come on."