When Franklin-Simpson Coach Doug Preston would take his son, Collin, to the University of Kentucky’s football camps over the summer, he always noticed a kid his son’s age hanging around Joker Phillips, then the head coach at UK. Preston assumed the kid in Joker’s shadow was his son.
By the time Collin reached middle school, the other kid — Josiah Robey — was a teammate and Doug discovered that he was the son of Tonya Adams, Joker’s sister. Growing up, Robey spent a week or so during the summer with his notable uncle which normally coincided with those youth camps.
“Josiah was always there,” Preston said.
Now 6-foot and 157 pounds, Robey is a leader for an undefeated group of Wildcats looking for its first state finals trip since 2011 and its first title since 1980, when his uncle was a star for the program. Franklin-Simpson (12-0) hosts South Warren (9-3) in the regional finals this week.
Robey has rushed for 940 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and is the Wildcats’ leading receiver with 432 yards and six scores. He also has a team-high five interceptions as a cornerback on defense.
“He’s really more of a natural receiver in my opinion,” Preston said of Robey, who has a scholarship offer from Austin Peay. “We use him in a lot of ways. He can be physical and he’ll make you miss. I guess you’d say he’s a slasher; he’s very elusive.”
Phillips, who played wide receiver at UK from 1981-1984 and was the head coach of the program from 2010-2012, is now an assistant at Ohio State. Preston said he talks weekly with Phillips, for whom the road leading up to Franklin-Simpson’s stadium and the program’s fieldhouse are named.
“To be away like he is, he’s sure involved in our community,” Preston said.
As did his famous uncle, Robey plays for Franklin-Simpson’s basketball team, which won the 13th District title last season. Phillips helped the Wildcats reach the Sweet Sixteen as a senior in 1980; this year’s edition, which boasts one of the state’s top seniors in Tavin Lovan, should be in the conversation to match that accomplishment.
But there’s still a mission to be finished on the gridiron. South Warren is no slouch: the Spartans have lost three times, including a 30-24 decision to Franklin-Simpson earlier this year, but boast several Division I athletes and was picked by most to repeat as the Class 4A champion in the preseason. A rash of injuries dampened outside expectations but Preston knows South Warren will bring its “A” game.
“I feel like two of the best teams in Kentucky, in our class for sure, will be playing Friday night down here,” Preston said. “It’s all debatable, how that goes, (we) settle it on the field in the playoffs. I feel like either one of us are good enough to get to Bowling Green and play in the finals, but unfortunately one of us is gonna have to lose.”