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July 5, 2013

Walk-on Chronicles: Alex Robinson

As recently as November 2012, then Woodward Academy (Georgia) senior punter Alex Robinson was ready to play his college football at Division III Washington and Lee. Robinson took an official visit to the Virginia liberal arts college and even applied early to the school.

But while National Signing Day was only a few months away at the time, Robinson's college football recruiting journey - which included a commitment to Penn and ended with the punter accepting a preferred walk-on offer to Stanford - was only just getting started.

In late November, after Robinson took an official visit and submitted an application to Washington and Lee, he started receiving recruiting attention from the University of Pennsylvania. Penn seemed like a natural fit. The program desperately needed a punter in its 2013 recruiting class, and the Wharton school of business - which Robinson was planning to attend - is one of the best in the nation.

Upon receiving a likely letter from Penn in December, Robinson made a commitment to the Quakers.

"I committed to Penn originally in December because they had given me a likely letter," Robinson said. "So they said you're in, basically. And I committed to them because that was the option that I had at that time. So I committed in December. I went to the Signing Day thing with a Penn hat on. I was asked to come up for an official visit in late November. I went in early December for my official visit and they said we'll get you a likely letter as soon as we can, just get your application in and we did. I had a likely letter in my hand middle of December saying basically you're in the University of Pennsylvania."

Around that time, Robinson started hearing from Stanford. Cardinal special teams coach Pete Alamar indicated that he planned to watch Robinson work out some time in the evaluation period. That prompted Robinson to apply to Stanford in the event something was to materialize with the Cardinal.

"I had contact with them in December so I thought in case anything were to come up with them I figured I definitely should apply and keep my options open," Robinson said. 'Plus I liked the school before just because of the academic reputation and the look of the campus and everything. I decided to apply to see if I could get in. I applied regular decision this past application process."

But even after watching him work out, Alamar and Stanford were initially non-committal about a walk-on offer for Robinson. The punter finally got his answer in February.

"I think it was February 20," Robinson said. "I think was the day that he said we have the preferred walk on spot available if you would like it. (They asked if I) would like to have (my) application looked at as a potential football player. And I said, 'Yes, please do.' So that's when I was offered the spot. And then I just had to wait and see whether I was accepted or not when the admissions decisions were released."

Prior to making his final college choice (and receiving his Stanford admissions decision), Robinson took an unofficial visit to Stanford in early March. The visit was his second to The Farm. (Robinson also took a tour of the campus during his sophomore year on a family trip to the Bay Area.)

"I went out with my mom for three or four days (this past spring)," Robinson said. "We walked around the campus, we met with Coach Alamar and we got to watch practice… It's the most extraordinary campus that I've ever seen by a pretty good margin."

Robinson learned that he had been admitted to Stanford when the school released its admissions decisions for regular applicants in late March. By that time, Robinson had already decided on Stanford.

"I had not told Penn anything about Stanford up to that point, but I told my parents, 'Listen, if I get in to Stanford I'm going to go to Stanford,'" Robinson said.

Telling Penn about his decision was not easy.

"I had to call the guy that recruited me and the head coach up at Penn, which I didn't really like doing, but I had to do it," Robinson said. "I let them know personally that I wasn't going to go there anymore. I kind of led them adrift because I was the only punter that they would have had in their system. So now they don't have a punter really for next year."

Several factors led Robinson to select Stanford over Penn.

"A big thing actually now that I think about it is the environment at Stanford in general," Robinson said, "it's not to say that it's not stressful, but it's less stressful than it would be going to Penn and living in Philadelphia. Penn is super urban and there's not really a barrier between the campus and the actual city. You step outside of one of the dorms and you're practically in downtown Philadelphia.

"And from what I heard from the people that were at Wharton, which is the school that I was going to attend, I was going to do the business school there, they said that it's just constant work. Like you wake up at 6 a.m., you go to class, and then you study from when you get out of class to 3 in the morning. And then you wake up and do the same thing the next day. With Stanford, from what I've seen and what I've heard, because there have actually been three kids - two football players and an actual student - that got in to Stanford over the past few years that have gone there… (Stanford defensive end Jordan Watkins) said it's hard but coming from the Woodward education it's definitely manageable. It's not easy by any stretch, but the atmosphere is great, the people there are great, and I've never heard any Stanford student say anything bad about their experience so far. So I guess that was kind of the ultimate thing for me.

"Plus, it's a higher level of football as well. You can't deny that. Penn is great for what it is. It's high academic and D-1AA. You play 10 games a year. You play against the other Ivy's and there are bragging rights and everything, but there's nothing really like a D-1 football experience, (which provides) the opportunity to win a national title and compete against all the other big schools across the nation. (Also), the academics are actually higher at Stanford. I really liked that. That was one of the main things I looked for when I was looking at schools to go to try to play for… I guess my ultimate deciding factors were a better atmosphere, better academics and better football."

Robinson will join follow several other former Woodward Academy football players - Henry Anderson and Jordan Watkins - at Stanford. (Watkins was actually Robinson's long snapper for the punter's sophomore and junior seasons.) A third Woodward player, 2015 safety Arrington Farrar, was offered by the Cardinal after last month's camp. Robinson doesn't think the Woodward-to-Stanford pipeline was created by accident.

"Woodward's a phenomenal private school that has connections all over the nation," Robinson said. "I guess a link to Stanford is not pre-determined, but it's kind of a natural thing because Stanford stresses the same thing. They like a well-rounded kid like Woodward does."

Robinson is considering a major in Management Science and Engineering (MS&E) or Science, Technology and Society (STS). He's scheduled to report to Stanford on August 11th for the start of training camp.

"I absolutely cannot wait to get out there and start playing," Robinson said. "It's been almost seven months since I've played a football game, since I played in two all-star games over the break, and I'm itching to get back on the field."

He'll enter the Cardinal program with every intention of competing with the two punters already in the program, Conrad Ukropina and Ben Rhyne.

"(Stanford) wants me to come in and not just be a guy that they might use a few years down the road, but they want me to come in and compete and push the guys ahead of them," Robinson said. "They said, 'Listen, if you're the best kid there we'll play you.' They want me to definitely come in and work and push those guys ahead of me."

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