High-SchoolFootball: UNC

The Huddle: Finding the right fit for college

November, 21, 2011
The huddle is a sacred place in football, one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior quarterback Patton Robinette of Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.) discusses how he navigated the complicated recruiting process. A 6-foot-6, 205-pounder, Robinette chose the University of North Carolina over scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Memphis, Northwestern, Purdue, Southern Mississippi and the University of Central Florida.

The signal-caller led Maryville to last year's Class 6A state title with a mark of 14-1, and through 13 games his Rebels haven’t lost and are the No. 20 team in this week's POWERADE FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings.

Finding the right fit for both a program and the college experience was paramount to Robinette. As far as electing to attend North Carolina?

"Three things did it for me," said Robinette, “the overall feel, the academics and the atmosphere."

"At the end of the day, if you don't like the feel of the place that you're going or the campus, the coaching staff and the people that you meet there, then it's just not going to work," he added. "You've got to go to the campus and be around the players. Make sure to visit classes and try to go through the college experience in its entirety to feel what's best for you."

Robinette is considering a major in the medical field. "Probably chemistry, and that fit really well with me, because I think North Carolina has a medical program that is ranked No. 4 in the nation," he said. "They do a lot of research medicine and sports medicine and those are things that I'm very interested in. That really appealed to me, because football is going to end sometime, and you need something to fall back on. There is nothing better to fall back on than a great degree from a top quality school."

Robinette also felt at ease with his campus surroundings at North Carolina, from the campus size to its general facilities and his teammates.

"You've got to like the people who are on the team and to get along with them and be able to interact with them positively," said Robinette. "Also, there are the guys who are coming in with you, so you've got to have a positive relationship with them as well."

Of course, none of that would have mattered to Robinette if he didn't feel as if he could contribute on the field.

"They do a lot of Pro-Style stuff with progression reads, and that appealed to me and the ball-control aspect of it," said Robinette. "North Carolina hasn't really been known for football for a while. It’s always been a basketball school. But they've started to move things in the right direction and they're not a program that you can overlook."

ROLE MODEL: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts "I've seen all the things that he's done for the University of Tennessee. That's all people talk about around here is what he's done. He puts his offense into the correct calls and knows how to make plays. He's definitely someone to look up to."

Senior Season: Rams DE Robert Quinn

November, 9, 2011
Robert QuinnTim Steadman/Icon SMIDefensive end Robert Quinn chased down QBs at UNC and is now emerging as a force for the St. Louis Rams in the NFL.
There is something special about senior year in high school. It’s a particularly bittersweet time in life; the pinnacle of the high school experience but also the final year enjoying the friendships and familiarities developed over several years.

For high school football players it’s a similarly sentimental time, as it marks the final season spent under the Friday night lights. We spoke with several NFL players to discuss what makes this time in life so unique, and to share some of the lessons they’d like to impart to the class of 2012. This week’s inaugural edition features St. Louis Rams rookie Robert Quinn. Check back every Wednesday for the next five weeks for another installment of Senior Season.

Defensive end Robert Quinn, the St. Louis Rams’ first round pick this past April by way of UNC, attended high school at Fort Dorchester in North Charleston, S.C., and shared with us his inspiring story from his senior season.

As his final fall playing football for Fort Dorchester was nearing its conclusion, Quinn was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor that required surgery and prematurely ended his final campaign with the Patriots.

"With my situation I learned that I was going to miss the rest of my final football season and it was really tough," said Quinn. “But I realized that it was something I couldn’t control and for the first couple of days after learning the details I was down about it. But after a while I decided that no matter what I was going to enjoy my life.

"I decided that if I was going to die in a week I was going to make sure I was happy,” Quinn said. "I don’t think anybody wants to die sad. I know it’s crazy to have thought this at 17, but at the time we didn’t really know the outcome of the situation and I developed this positive attitude while lying in that hospital bed. It was kind of weird because I knew that I had to help keep my parents and friends positive because they were looking to me."

After fully recovering Quinn was cleared to resume his athletic career, including back on the wrestling mat, where he was a three-time heavyweight state champ in 4A wrestling. Just three months after surgery Quinn went undefeated on his way to another state wrestling crown, a testament to his resolve and the positive perspective honed in the hospital.

Quinn endured this challenging time and went on to a strong college career as a Tar Heel at UNC and is now an emerging force for the Rams, with three sacks and a NFL special teams player of the week award already in his rookie campaign. While he never got to experience that final game on the gridiron with his teammates, he still fondly recollects the big games that defined his high school career.

"What I really remember about my high school days was playing in the big games," recalled Quinn. "Our biggest rivalry was with Summerville (Summerville, S.C.). They had A.J. Green of the Bengals and legendary coach (John) McKissick. When we played them it was the biggest thing in town; everybody showed up on Friday night and the town had a special feel and energy to it. Being under those lights was a great feeling. Although we were never able to beat them when I played, it was still special because everyone knew each other and had grown up together with their school being just a few minutes down the road. I did beat them in seventh grade on the B-team, but never got them in high school."

The tradition and pomp of the rivalry still resonates with Quinn.

"My junior year we had a big pep rally for the Summerville game and they had a skeleton figure of coach McKissick and threw it in a coffin. I know it sounds weird but it was all in fun and symbolized how we were wanted to beat them bad that week. It’s just one of those funny moments I remember that could only come from my high school days."

With the help of his father, who drove him to visit schools on most weekends during the summer leading up to senior year, Quinn navigated the recruiting process as a top football prospect.

"My advice to any players for the recruiting process would be to first rely on your parents or guardians or whomever is watching over you," said Quinn. "It’s really important to have priorities for what you are really looking for in a school and program. The facilities, campus and all of that are important, but it’s the people that really matter. Make sure you feel comfortable with the teammates you’ll be joining and the coaches you’ll be playing for, because the people really define your college experience more than anything else.

"A freshman in college also needs to learn to adapt,” Quinn said. “Be prepared to adapt to new challenges academically and with coaching styles. In high school many top recruits have it all figured out, but when you get to that next level it’s a new situation to adapt to. More than anything, you can’t let anyone persuade you where to go if you don’t feel comfortable. The only person waking up every day on that campus is you.

"More than anything it comes back to being positive, something I learned during my situation in senior year,” Quinn said. “You have to be positive about the experiences you go through, because that is the one thing you can truly control."