Here’s how this works.
You play your first college game. You carry the ball 15 times for 63 yards and your first collegiate touchdown. You don’t fumble.
Red-shirt freshman Adam Robinson got pulled into running backs coach Lester Erb’s office Sunday and was told he’s Iowa’s No. 1 running back. The confident, quick-to-smile 5-foot-9, 205-pounder from Des Moines allowed himself about two minutes to celebrate.
“This is my dream,” Robinson said Tuesday. “It’s a great feeling. It’s indescribable. I can’t even think of the words right now.”
Yes, he allowed about two minutes. He saw last Saturday how quickly fortunes can turn at the running back position. Junior Paki O’Meara started Iowa’s 17-16 victory over Northern Iowa (0-1), but he didn’t finish.
After a fumble on his first carry of the second half, O’Meara didn’t get another. That’s how quickly it can go away.
“I don’t want to lose this job,” Robinson said. “I’m working extra hard watching the film and getting everything down so I know it in and out, so I make as few mistakes as possible so I can keep this job.
“One mistake and you can lose this job. Mistakes are going to happen. It’s all about how you respond.”
Robinson will make his first career start when the Hawkeyes (1-0), who fell out of the Associated Press and coaches polls Tuesday, travel to Iowa State (1-0). But don’t cross off O’Meara, Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Ferentz said O’Meara will “show” better and coaches will keep an open mind at the position, which is now manned by a lightly used junior and three freshmen.
“Yeah, a guy can come back from (a fumble),” Ferentz said when asked about O’Meara. “We’re not passing life sentences, that’s for sure.”
For this week, for now, the spotlight passes to Robinson.
He came up through the youth football ranks in Des Moines. At that level, he was coached by an assistant of Des Moines Lincoln coach Tom Mihalovic. He went to Lincoln and averaged 12.3 yards a carry as a junior and 8.6 as a senior. He set a state record with a 99-yard TD run against West Des Moines Valley in the 2006 Class 4A state playoffs.
“We think he did the best Saturday,” Ferentz said. “It was his first time on the game field, so that was a good start for him. That being said, he’s still a young player.”
Robinson came to Iowa with a built-in chip on his shoulder.
First, he kind of came in the side door at Iowa.
Robinson was lightly recruited by FBS schools. He had an offer to walk on at Iowa. Iowa State showed interest when Dan McCarney was head coach.
“Once the coaching staff went to (Gene) Chizik, they stopped recruiting me,” said Robinson, who rushed for 2,679 yards at Lincoln. “I started looking more toward Iowa, which was always my No. 1, and UNI.”
Iowa offered a grayshirt scholarship that eventually was upgraded to a fall offer, but this came after the buzz of February signing day.
Also, growing up and playing high school football in Des Moines, Robinson toiled in the shadow of the west side — West Des Moines Valley and West Des Moines Dowling. A lot of media exposure goes to the west side. The Valley-Dowling game was held at Drake Stadium earlier this season with 12,500 in attendance.
So, high school prospects from Des Moines proper might have a hard time gaining notice.
“My high school coach (Mihalovic) really helped. He’s one of the reasons why I’m here,” Robinson said. “He sent out a lot of game films and highlight tapes to colleges, wrote a lot of letters. But it’s a challenge. Des Moines schools aren’t traditionally up to rank with the Valleys, Dowlings and a lot of the suburb schools.
“So, it’s a challenge to get recruited and get to this point.”
Don’t read this as bitterness or a severe case of little man’s disease. Robinson has an eager air about him. It’s the outlook of a young, freshman running back who’s just been given the keys to the position.
“He’s an optimistic person,” quarterback Ricky Stanzi said. “He has a great personality.
“He’s not someone who’s getting all riled up before games or freaking out or thinking about it too much. He’s a guy who’s calm, plays the game and lets it come to him.”
The game is sure coming to him this week.