By Dave Krider
Corey Robinson's mind-boggling, national-record 91 touchdown passes this fall were the result of a "perfect storm," according to Steve Millizer, veteran sports editor of the Sun newspaper in Paducah, Ky. Millizer told MaxPreps that Paducah Lone Oak has had some good quarterbacks in the past, but never had this year's combination of a great quarterback, receivers and offensive line.
Despite sitting out at least one quarter in 11 games, the 6-foot-2, 193-pound senior completed 383-of-520 passes this fall for a state-record 5,872 yards and 91 touchdowns (the national record was 77) and ran for five touchdowns. He threw only four interceptions. During his three-year career, he completed 613-of-962 passes for 9,271 yards, 26 interceptions and 132 touchdowns. The state record is 133 touchdowns by superstar Tim Couch of Hyden Leslie County.
Lone Oak junior receiver Jamarielle Brown (6-3, 170), who has 4.55 speed in the 40 yard, set single-season state records for catches (106), yards (2,021) and tied the record for touchdown catches (28).
Unfortunately, Robinson's career ended on a disappointing note as Lone Oak - a school of 900 students in grades 9-12 - was throttled by Lexington Catholic, 49-7, in the Class 4A state championship game. Robinson was sacked five times and threw only one scoring pass on a rain-soaked field. Still, the Purple Flash finished with an outstanding 14-1 record - only their third winning season since 1982. Until this year the school had won just one playoff game.
Robinson had no inkling that he was going to have one of the most phenomenal seasons in the history of high school football. "I don't know what I'd say," he admitted. "I'd probably laugh. It's been fun."
Ironically, Robinson started his football career as an eighth grade receiver in his hometown of Jackson, Tenn., where he also played baseball and basketball. He moved to Paducah in the middle of football season during his freshman year. He started several varsity games at the end of the season and made a pair of touchdown catches.
During spring practice, he was catching passes one day and throwing the ball back to an aspiring quarterback with such authority that he caught the eye of Coach Jack Haskins' son, Billy Jack Haskins, a former Kentucky Mr. Football. The Purple Flash were looking for a signal caller and Billy Jack quickly told his father, "Dad, there's your quarterback right there. He's got a great arm."
However, Robinson "loved playing receiver" and he balked at the idea of learning a new position. "It took me awhile - 2-3-4 weeks into the summer," he admitted. "I was pretty skeptical because I didn't know much about the position. I was not big on being a one-person show. My dad said, `Just give it a shot. Don't run away from anything.' I just started understanding the position and how much fun it could be - being a leader and helping out everybody."
Haskins, who has coached two quarterbacks who were named Kentucky's Mr. Football, pointed out, "He wasn't really a natural. We had to work with his feet and his delivery was a little low. But his accuracy and velocity were really great."
To say Robinson grew into his new position would be a gross understatement. "He just got better each year," Haskins pointed out. "We sent him to some camps. He's athletic and smart. He picks up things well. He's a very good runner (4.8 40) and benches 245 pounds. He's very humble and nothing seems to bother him. He's very relaxed. He's probably the biggest clown in the locker room, but really serious on the field."
As a sophomore, Robinson completed 64-of-161 passes for 741 yards and 12 touchdowns. He threw eight interceptions as Lone Oak posted a 5-5 record. His statistics jumped greatly as a junior. He completed 166-of-281 passes for 2,658 yards and 29 touchdowns. However, he threw 14 interceptions as the Purple Flash again finished 5-5.
The turning point came during the fifth game of his junior year. "We were running the ball (which had been the Lone Oak trademark)," Robinson recalled. "We were down 28-0 against Caldwell County when coach Haskins said, `Forget about it (running)' and we went strictly to the pass. We came back and lost 35-28."
Since that night Lone Oak's wide-open, spread attack - creating many mismatches - became known as "Air Raid." It was bombs away every week and the enemy better run for cover!
This year he threw a mere four interceptions in 15 games. "Coach taught me different defensive schemes - all the coverages they would run against us - and pre-snap reading," he pointed out. "Sometimes they dropped eight (to defend the pass)."
The Purple Flash threw 90 percent of the time. Once in awhile they would use a surprise draw play, but their ground attack normally consisted of Robinson scrambling when all his receivers were covered.
"We've got a good, solid senior and junior class," he said proudly. "We all came together as a team. It definitely was not a one-man show."
Six years ago Lone Oak was outscored by an embarrassing 519-18 total. "This school had been known only for tennis," according to the 64-year-old Haskins, who became head coach four years ago. "Football had been a doormat. I was the homecoming queen - everybody picked us (for a homecoming opponent and an easy win). We were lucky to get a thousand people at a game. It's been phenomenal coaching these kids. They definitely are overachievers."
Today Lone Oak players and coaches are celebrities.
"People know who we are," the personable Robinson understated. "It's not just me. When newspapers call, I make sure to give credit to the line, defense and receivers. There are a few free meals. People congratulate all of us. We've gotten huge crowds. Little kids come up and give us high fives. At our last pep rally, they invited all the elementary schools. The team signed autographs; I must have signed 800."
Robinson still can look forward to a pair of other sports before he graduates in 2008. He will be a starter at shooting guard in basketball for the second year and a starting left fielder in baseball for the fourth year. As a junior he batted around .350 from the key cleanup position.
He also assists special education students and helps coach a young boys basketball team. He carries a 2.7 GPA and hopes to attend a Division I college to play football. Thus far his best offers are from Murray State and Tennessee-Martin.
However, coach Haskins predicts that Robinson - previously looked at only as a "sleeper" - definitely will get a top scholarship. "A bunch of schools are going to jump in once the word gets out," he says. "They'll come in late December and early January after they see him on film. Five or six big-time schools will come after him."
Robinson, who idolizes NFL star Peyton Manning, had solid offers from Murray State and Tennessee-Martin prior to his final game.
Sunday was a Red Letter Day. "I picked up my first Division I offer, from Troy University," Robinson said excitedly. "I just want to go play somewhere big."