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Illinois freshman quarterback Matt Robinson not worried about height

From the 🏈 Did you miss stories from Illini football camp? Catch them all here series
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University of Illinois quarterback Matt Robinson (12) is listed at 6-foot-1, and was often overlooked in high school because of his height.

CHAMPAIGN — If Matt Robinson has heard it once, he's heard it 1,000 times.

If he were taller, the Power Five Division I football programs would have been lining up to coax them into joining their program.

Robinson, who is listed at 6-foot-1, came from arguably the best conference in high school football when he played for JSerra Catholic High School in California's Trinity League. He set a school record for passing yards and threw for 2,417 yards and 22 touchdowns as a senior.

But despite the success of quarterbacks Drew Brees for the New Orleans Saints, Russell Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks and Baker Mayfield, who was the Cleveland Brown's No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, some scouts weren't sold on Robinson's height.

Each of the trio of Mayfield (6-1), Brees (6-0) and Wilson (5-11) — which boats two Super Bowl rings and a Heisman Trophy — have carved out a niche in the NFL despite not touching 6-foot-2.

“Obviously a lot of scouts like guys who are taller. I’m about 6-feet, but they list me at 6-1,” Robinson said with a laugh Friday at Illinois Media Day. “You see guys like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, a lot of guys who kind of think it’s a myth. You throw it through a window. You can see over the line fine."

Robinson knows scouts were hung up over his height. He was in a conference in high school with Power Five players lined up at every corner on the field, but those offers weren't available for Robinson.

“It got frustrating because I always knew I could play at the highest level, but I wanted someone to take a chance on me and get my opportunity," Robinson said. "I was just waiting for an opportunity."

Offers for Robinson came from the University of Montana, Florida International University, Coastal Carolina, Dayton and Northern Arizona. 

He committed to the Montana before he re-opened his recruitment after Bobby Hauck replaced Bob Stitt as head coach after the 2017 season.

That's when talks between Illinois offensive coordinator Rod Smith and Robinson started to heat up. Smith coached with Robinson's uncle, Greg Robinson, a longtime college and NFL coach, reached out to Smith.

Greg Robinson and Smith were on Rich Rodriguez's staff at the University of Michigan in 2009-10.

"He called and said, 'My nephew has re-opened his recruitment and you need to take a look at him. He reminds me of a kid we had at Michigan in Tate Forcier,'" Smith said.

Robinson committed to the Illini in February.

Smith didn't dwell on Robinson's height. He looked at this body of work, and the competition. As Smith said, "When you’re operating in the shotgun, you’re not under center, six foot is not six foot anymore."

Height wasn't a problem in Smith's eyes. He's played with quarterbacks who have been the same height or shorter and have found success.

“Everyone else worries about the 6-foot, Matt Robinson’s been 6-foot his whole life," Smith said. "He’s been making plays his whole life. It doesn’t bother him."

Through the first seven days if Illinois football training camp, Robinson's height has been an afterthought.

On Friday Robinson darted a perfect pass to Carmoni Green down the right sideline in stride that Green took the the end zone in 11-on-11 drills.

Robinson, who is in an open quarterback competition with incumbent Cam Thomas, graduate transfer AJ Bush and freshmen Coran Taylor and MJ Rivers, has shown the ability to thread passes through windows and display accuracy on deep passes.

"All the guys have had their moments where they got reps," Illinois head coach Lovie Smith said. "Once you start playing guys they kind of tell you who should get more. That's kind of where we are right now. Of course we don't have a starter or haven't named a starter or any of that. We like the progress."

Robinson has been poised, even for a freshman who has to treat every rep like it's gold in an open quarterback competition — the first Robinson has been in since he was a freshman in high school.

“My thoughts were to just come in, do my best, compete to the best of my ability and control what I can control, and do my job each day," Robinson said.

Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25


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