Charles Kelly saw something special in Jahquez Robinson when Robinson was a junior in high school.
Even as Robinson adjusted to college football and didn’t see the field much during his three years at Alabama, Kelly saw potential in Robinson.
Now the defensive coordinator at Colorado, Kelly still sees something special in Robinson, a 6-foot-2, 199-pound defensive back who is one of the newest Buffaloes.
“If you have a coach that believes in you, it gives you confidence for sure,” said Robinson, who recently committed to CU as a transfer. “I’m gonna go out there to play for my coach. I think that’s a big part of how my confidence is even more boosted coming to Colorado because I know coach Kelly is gonna be on my side.”
Kelly spent the past four seasons at Alabama, where he worked closely with Robinson.
A four-star recruit coming out of Sandalwood (Fla.) High School in 2020, Robinson played in only seven games during his three seasons at Alabama, mostly on special teams. But, Kelly played a big role in keeping Robinson motivated, which is why Robinson is now headed to Boulder.
“I would say the No. 1 deciding factor was coach Kelly,” Robinson said. “As soon as I hopped in the portal, coach Kelly immediately set up a visit to Colorado.”
Robinson already knows the defense and said, “I know he knows me as a player, so I know he’ll help me with certain things that I struggle with and certain things that I’m good at and help me become the best player I could be.”
Shortly after Robinson arrived at Alabama in January of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down college sports and limited Robinson’s early development. But, he also admits he struggled to find motivation because he knew he wouldn’t play ahead of stars such as Patrick Surtain II, now a star for the Denver Broncos.
“My freshman year, I didn’t really have a plan to get better at no particular thing,” he said. “I kind of had that negative mindset. But I feel like once I changed my mindset to be like, whenever I get my opportunity I’m gonna make the most of it, I started seeing more playing time.”
Kelly was the first coach to give Robinson a scholarship offer during his junior year of high school and when Robinson finally started playing well last year, Kelly was behind it.
“He always kind of pushed me to be the best player I could be,” Robinson said. “This last year, I started coming into myself as a player and he was pushing me, putting me in different positions and letting me know what I could do better. And I was meeting him every day, making sure I got the plays down that we’re going through for that day or that game plan that week. So he kind of took me under his wing this last season and let me know I can do this and that kind of gave me my confidence back.”
Kelly isn’t the only reason Robinson is coming to Colorado, though. Former Alabama assistant Sal Sunseri, who recruited Robinson to Tuscaloosa, is now coaching the Buffs’ defensive line. And, Robinson’s best friend, linebacker Demouy Kennedy, is also making the move from the Tide to the Buffs.
Of course, the opportunity to play for new CU head coach Deion Sanders is big, too. Robinson is excited to learn from Sanders, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and arguably the best cornerback to ever play the game.
“Getting coached by the best DB of all time is obviously the best honor you could have,” Robinson said. “I played for the best college football coach of all time (Alabama’s Nick Saban) and I’m being coached by the best DB. I feel like I’ve got the best of all worlds.”
Where Robinson plays in the CU secondary remains to be seen, however. Robinson was coy about where he’ll play, but said he can line up at corner, safety or anywhere else the Buffs need him.
Robinson fought through an injury to play in six games last year, including the Sugar Bowl. That, along with Kelly’s encouragement, helped Robinson restore his confidence as he embarks on a fresh start.
“(Playing last year) definitely helped me a lot,” he said, “especially going into Colorado with at least some game experience to where I know what I’m going to be looking for and how things are going to be.”