Darrell Robinson gave new meaning to the term “workhorse back” when he played running back at Noxubee County High School.
A game of 30 or 40 carries never was out of the question.
Now Robinson is waiting to make a similar mark at Pearl River Community College.
“The leap you have to take to play in this league is a lot bigger than I thought,” Robinson said. “It is all about patience and learning how to do things the right way. If you are a good enough player, your opportunities are going to come. This is a great league with a lot of good backs.
“You have to work hard to make sure you become one of those.”
Fresh off new head coach William Jones’ first victory, PRCC (1-1) will open Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College South Division play at archrival Jones Junior College on Saturday night in Ellisville. Robinson had 12 carries for a game-high 71 yards Thursday in a 30-14 victory against Mississippi Delta C.C.
“We have a lot of young guys on this team, so it is just a matter of putting things together,” Robinson said. “You work out all summer, then you have a couple of weeks of practice and you go. It is a difficult transition for a freshman. I think we will get better each week.”
The MACJC is a pass-friendly league, so running backs seldom get the accolades and can get a lost in the shuffle. That is a sharp contrast from Robinson’s playing days at Noxubee County.
Robinson rushed for 2,686 yards and scored 50 touchdowns as a senior to lead the Tigers to a 16-0 record and the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 4A state championship.
“When you turn on the tape, you see a dynamic, game-changing player,” Jones said. “What the tape does not show you is what type of person Darrell is. A tape does not show you how hard he works in the weight room and film room. It does not show you what type of leader he is when other players need that extra push.”
Jones came to PRCC after five seasons as associate head coach and defensive coordinator at East Mississippi C.C. While at EMCC, Jones coached several players from Noxubee County High. He recruited Robinson as one of Rodriguez Moore’s replacements at EMCC and then made sure Robinson still knew his number late last year when he took over at PRCC.
“It just seemed like a natural fit,” Robinson said. “He and I had a strong relationship, so I thought this would be a good situation. Choosing the right college is a lot more difficult decision than I thought it would be. After you make the decision, it is easy. Then you go to work at trying to become the best player you can.”
In the season opener — a 49-6 loss to EMCC — Robinson was listed as a third-string running back on the pregame depth chart. He had seven carries for 9 yards and caught a pass for 1 yard.
Things picked up against Delta. Even though he didn’t find the end zone, Robinson had three straight rushes for 35 yards in a scoring drive early in the third quarter that helped PRCC expand a 6-0 halftime lead.
“We really did a lot of things well on offense,” Robinson said. “In these games, it is always up-tempo and you need a lot of players and you need to be able to do a lot of different things. It is like anything. You have to believe you can do something. I think we felt really good after that game because the first game was difficult.”
Through two games, PRCC is ninth in the state in team rushing, averaging just slightly better than 100 yards per game. By comparison, Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C., the nation’s No. 1 team and the other main rival for PRCC, is averaging 332 rushing yards per game.
“We have a long way to go, but I like the attitude and the progress,” said Jones, who inherits a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1999-2000. “The main thing when you have a coaching change is having a new group of guys buying into a different way of doing things. I think we have that part accomplished. Now it is all about recruiting and coaching up the players we have.”
Detrick Goff, a sophomore from Hancock County High, has been PRCC’s featured back. Goff has 24 rushes for 89 yards and all three of his squad’s rushing touchdowns. Scottie Merrill, a sophomore from Picayune High, is the squad’s other main threat in the backfield.
“Pearl River is going to be very happy with the type of player they got in Darrell,” Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said. “When he is given the opportunity, he will take full advantage of it. Once he is unleashed, he will be hard to contain. His instincts and his ability to make that first move will transfer to that level perfectly.”
Robinson is ready to showcase that first move and find his way back to the end zone. A year ago, Robinson promised Shorter a 2,000-yard rushing season and a state championship. He made good on both promises. Now he looks to take the next step.
“Getting ready is when my number is called,” Robinson said. “That is what it is all about. You are here for a reason. Now it is up to you what you make out of that opportunity.”
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.