High School Football

Program momentum, legacy beyond football put UK on top for Wandale Robinson

Western Hills High School senior and football sensation Wandale Robinson has committed to the University of Kentucky.

Robinson, whose all-around contributions for the Wolverines have him in the driver’s seat for the 2018 Mr. Football award, picked the Wildcats on Thursday. He revealed his decision via a video produced by Kentucky.com in front of a packed house in his school’s gymnasium.

“It really came down to trust,” Robinson said of his decision. “My family and I had talked today and it just came down to them. They have been on me the hardest since I started being recruited.”

UK won out among a final six that also included Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Purdue. Kentucky was among the first programs that offered Robinson, doing so in July 2017, but his decision wasn’t locked in stone until the final day leading up to this announcement.

“I was kind of up in the air within the past couple days,” said Robinson, noting that Nebraska was his second choice. UK’s momentous season — it’s ninth in the College Football Playoff rankings heading into a matchup with Georgia for the Southeastern Conference East Division title on Saturday — and its effectiveness using Lynn Bowden, a sophomore athlete with a similar profile, played a role in him favoring the hometown team.

“They’re obviously trending upward and using Lynn in a very good way,” Robinson said. “I feel like me on the other side of that, that’ll obviously cause problems for defenses and that’ll just be a really, really good combo with us two.”

A knock on Robinson is his size — 5-foot-9, 179 pounds — which is almost exactly that of former Trinity star Rondale Moore, a friend of Robinson’s who has emerged as a star freshman at Purdue.

“If you look at our measurables and everything like that, and if you watch our film, you can definitely see that we’re both very similar in the things we do,” Robinson said. “But he’s a little bit more of a receiver than I am and I can get in the backfield a little bit more than he can and do a lot of different things that way.”

Robinson will sign in the early period in December and intends to enroll at UK in January. The Wildcats are getting an offensive behemoth. Robinson in 10 regular-season games rushed for 1,844 yards and 28 touchdowns on 193 carries — an average of 184 yards per game — and had 493 yards and nine touchdowns on 22 receptions. He’s also thrown 10 passes this season, completing eight of them for 173 yards and two touchdowns.

He’s no slouch on defense, either: Robinson leads the Wolverines in tackles (105, 59 solo) and forced fumbles (six) and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions.

Robinson is considered a four-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals.com and ESPN, and was recently named as a U.S. Army All-American Bowl Game selection. That game is scheduled for Jan. 5 in San Antonio, Texas.

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He became the third top-10 player in 247Sports’ ranking of Kentucky’s 2019 class to make a commitment to the Wildcats. Three-star prospects Shawnkel Knight-Goff (Doss, defensive end) and Demontae Crumes (Butler, wide receiver), ranked No. 9 and No. 10, have committed to UK, as has three-star lineman Eli Cox (West Jessamine).

Robinson is the first four-star prospect in the state’s 2019 class to have stayed in-state; Moore’s JJ Weaver and Christian Academy of Louisville’s Milton Wright are still uncommitted.

Western Hills four-star running back Wandale Robinson watched a highlight video with his parents, Vicki Davis and Dale Robinson before committing to the University of Kentucky Thursday at Western Hills High School in Frankfort. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Robinson, who’s put up monster nights only 33 miles away from Kroger Field, is prepared to make a name for himself in Lexington. The UK coaching staff did not know his final decision until his video was released; only “a handful” of people knew his choice before he made it public.

“I let ’em get surprised by the video,” Robinson said with a grin. “I didn’t even tell them, I’ve got to call Coach (Mark) Stoops after this. It’s been a really, really good relationship. I’ve been getting recruited by them since probably my sophomore year. It’s been a really long road with them. They were the ones that have pushed the hardest to get me, and I really felt like I was a need there so I felt really comfortable with all them.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Big Day for Kentucky!!<br>YAHTZEE <a href="https://t.co/FRod0GNzLI">pic.twitter.com/FRod0GNzLI</a></p>&mdash; Mark Stoops (@UKCoachStoops) <a href="https://twitter.com/UKCoachStoops/status/1058072654970847232?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 1, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Football was a big part of Robinson’s final decision but so was the legacy he could leave beyond football. He referenced the “#4for40” motto that UK Director of Program Development Freddie Maggard has deployed, and mentioned that Maggard during a visit earlier in his high school career was the first person to tell him that he could play football in the SEC.

“There’s a really big impact outside of football that you can make just from going to play at Kentucky,” Robinson said. “ ... Really, if you go in and do what you’re supposed to do, after football you’re never going to want for anything if you stay in Kentucky and want to live your life here.”

Western Hills finished 7-3 in the regular season and ranked 11th in the latest Class 3A Cantrall Ratings. The Wolverines open the playoffs at Lawrence County on Friday.