Toe to toe in two demanding sports

Fred McCormick

Last fall the Owen football and soccer teams won their respective championships in the Western Highlands Conference. A sophomore at the time, Jacob Robinson was a key member of both squads.

A lifelong soccer player when he began his freshman season at Owen, Robinson unexpectedly began his football career the same year. He enters his junior year as the starting kicker on the football team and the soccer team’s center midfielder.

“The kicker for the varsity team at the time, Aaron Steinel, came to our practice,” Robinson recalled of that encounter his sophomore year. “He told us that the JV team needed a kicker, and I said I’d do it.”

With that decision Robinson made a bold move into unfamiliar territory. “I had never played organized football before that. But I loved the sport,” he said.

Soccer remained a top priority in Robinson’s life, but ultimately he decided he would play both sports.

As a freshman, Robinson was a member of the conference champion varsity soccer team. He also spent that fall kicking for the junior varsity football team.

His season playing junior varsity paid off as Robinson was nearly automatic as a sophomore at the varsity level. While no official statistics are kept for extra points Robinson recalls having four of them blocked, but not missing a single one that cleared the line.

He also connected for a 30-yard field goal while averaging over 43 yards per kickoff. The Warhorse team advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. Robinson continued to excel for the Owen soccer team, which won its second consecutive conference title.

“It felt great to be a part of both of those teams. They were like families,” Robinson said. “It was great to celebrate the end of two great seasons with two conference championships.”

Robinson enjoyed the success on the gridiron, but preparing for football differed greatly from preparing for soccer.

“Mentally, preparing for football is totally different,” Robinson said. “I try to stay calm and focus on my one job, which is to kick the ball.”

Soccer, however, requires him to take a significantly different approach.

“With soccer, I get pumped up with the rest of the guys,” he said. “Most of the time I’m in for the majority of the game, but I just have to be ready to handle everything on the field.”

Even though he’s seasoned as a soccer player, Robinson finds the stress on the football field to be more intense.

“In football, it could always come down to the kicker,” he said. “If we’re getting towards the end of the game and we’re down by two and I have to kick a field goal to go ahead, that’s a lot of pressure on me personally.”

Robinson’s calm demeanor makes him equipped to handle the two sports in the same season, as well as his school work. “It is a lot of work,” he said. “I make the most of our lunch period and try to manage my time.”

Robinson contends with weeks that include Monday and Wednesday soccer matches and Friday football games. He practices field goals, kickoffs and onside kicks with the football team every day from 3-4 p.m. and then sheds his pads for soccer gear for the practice that begins when football practice ends.

The football team lost its opener on the road against Enka last Friday, 48-47.

Robinson maintains lofty expectations for both Warhorse teams this season. He expects both teams to win their conference titles, he said.

With the benefit of hindsight, Robinson did not hesitate when asked if he would raise his hand again as a freshman soccer player.

“Absolutely,” he said.