MUNFORD -- Near the end of October, Munford High School center Jakari Robinson verbally made his intentions to be a Cincinnati Bearcat known.
On Wednesday afternoon, the unwavering two-star recruit put some ink behind those words in front of a host of friends, coaches and administrators, signing an offer to play college football and continue his education in Cincinnati.
Robinson said it was easy to stick with his verbal commitment.
“I went down there and I loved it,” Robinson said. “I felt like I was at home. That’s what made me pick there and stay there, for real -- even with the new coaching changes because the new coaches like me there, too. I just loved it there. That’s why I signed.”
Former Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell was hired as Cincinnati’s new head coach in early December following the resignation of former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville, who went 29-22 in four years with the Bearcats.
With 17 offers at his doorstep and a decision locked in, Robinson said he’s happy to end his time on the recruiting trail.
“I’m going to miss it, but I’m glad it’s over,” he said. “It’s fun, but it’s stressing with the people hitting you up every day and all that. I’m just glad it’s over and I’m glad I’ve finally got a home somewhere.”
Munford head coach Bill Smith addressed the crowd in the Munford High School cafeteria prior to Robinson’s signing.
“It’s so exciting for Jakari Robinson and his whole family -- and his whole family means the community of Munford, his teammates and his classmates,” he said. “I’ve been here for two years now, and it’s been a pleasure to be able to coach this young man and be able to get to know his mom and grandma, just the whole family. I wish I could’ve coached his big brother.
“This is a happy day. It’s been a long time since Munford has had someone who has signed a scholarship of this magnitude. So we celebrate today, we look forward to getting to see him on TV and we pray for good health for him.”
Robinson said he enjoyed working with a new group of coaches when Smith came to Munford prior to the 2015 season.
“It’s crazy how much better I got since Coach Smith has been here,” Robinson said. “Coach (Will) Wagnon and all them were good, too, but ever since Coach Smith got here, it’s just been a whole another level.
“I got way stronger. Coach (Devin) Crawford and Coach (Darrell) LeBeaux and all them he brought through… they kind of elevated my game all the way. They helped me out because I was on my own. I was already in the weight room every day just working and trying to be the best.”
He added it was great to be a part of so many Lions teams that made deep runs in the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 4A playoffs.
“I’m going to miss it a lot,” Robinson said. “I mean, it’s high school football. Everybody loves high school football. It’s going to be weird, for real, coming back and not playing … Munford was pretty fun, and just the fact that we were contending for a title almost every year was a pretty fun experience.”
Smith said Robinson graded out at 92 percent under a strict grading scale in which he and his coaches were making every attempt to find flaws in his game.
“I think Jakari Robinson, in my 25 years, is the best high school center that I’ve ever coached,” Smith said. “He’s not the tallest offensive linemen -- you know, just a shade under 6-foot-2. He’s plenty tall enough for the position of center because he plays with great leverage. At 298 pounds, he’s got really good quickness and really good change-of-direction.
“His hips are strong, his upper body is strong and he plays with a little bit of meanness during the games. I’ve told coaches he’s got the perfect combination of being a really good young man, but he plays with an attitude during the games. That’s a perfect combination for us coaches.”
He added Robinson is better than some All-Americans and players he’s coached who’ve gone on to be NFL players, and he made sure coaches who had concerns about Robinson’s height knew what they would be getting in their prospect.
“I’ve told them I think he’s the best center in Alabama, and that’s 1A through 7A,” Smith said. “Most of my coaching has been in larger schools being in Mobile and Birmingham … I went with (Robinson) to several combines. I went with him to the (offensive) line camp at Alabama. I went to Georgia a couple times.
“Jakari, he was as good a center or guard, interior lineman, that I saw at any of these combines with the 4- and 5-star guys. Against (defensive end) LeBryan Ray, who is considered to be the top-rated recruit, (Robinson) went twice against him at the Georgia combine and he went 1-1 against the top-rated recruit in the state.”