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updated: 1/23/2017 11:10 PM

Robinson ready to fulfill head-coaching dream at Grant

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  • Chris Robinson

    Chris Robinson

 
 

Many high school kids have no idea what their college major should be, let alone what they eventually want to do for a career.

Chris Robinson was a little different in that way.

He was a sophomore at Grant High School when he figured out exactly what he wanted to do. He still remembers that light-bulb moment back in 2004 as if it happened yesterday.

Robinson had earned a spot that fall on the varsity football team, as an offensive and defensive lineman.

"That first year on varsity, when I got the chance to see how the varsity staff worked with the players, I was really impressed," said Robinson, who grew to be 6-foot-2, 200 pounds by his senior year. "I thought it was really neat the connections that the coaches made with us as players and as people. When we struggled, I liked how they encouraged us and told us that they still believed in us.

"It was pretty much right there that I decided that's something I would like to do. I would like to be coach someday, too."

Robinson is getting his chance, not just as a coach, but as a head varsity coach, much sooner than even he could have imagined. On Friday, Robinson, just 29 years old and a 2006 high school graduate, was named the new head varsity football coach of his alma mater, Grant High School.

He replaces Vito Andriola, who went 7-20 at Grant over the last three seasons. Robinson was an assistant under Andriola, and was the offensive and defensive line coach last season.

"It's just been such a big dream for me to be a head coach," Robinson said. "When I first got the news, I was kind of shocked, definitely surprised, because I was up against some really great candidates.

"But mostly, I'm just really honored. The tradition that Grant football has is really good and there have been a lot of great coaches here. To put my name up with them is pretty amazing."

Robinson played for both Mark Barczak and Kurt Rous, and was an all-conference selection as a senior. He got his degree from Northern Illinois and returned to the area to be near his family, which has called Fox Lake home for more than two decades.

He has been teaching history and coaching at Grant for the last three years.

"Chris's work ethic inside the classroom and on the field has earned him great respect among his peers," Grant athletic director Dick Knar said. "We are excited to see the program move forward under his leadership."

Robinson says one of his biggest priorities is to change the perception of the football program within the community. He wants the program, which has struggled in recent years, to be seen as a success, and to be a fun experience for his players.

He hopes that approach will increase participation numbers, which were lagging in recent years.

"A big goal of mine is to give the kids in our program a really good reason to be there," Robinson said. "I want to get to know them as people and I want them to get to know me and I really want that connection."

Also, Robinson wants to be player-centric as he goes through the process of designing his offense and defense. He's in the process of finalizing his system as he puts his staff in place.

"I want to find a system that is going to fit our kids, not put the kids into a specific system," Robinson said. "We want a system that gives the kids a chance to succeed. It's better to mold the system to the kids than the other way around."

Grant, which struggled to run the Wing-T offense the last three years and was the second-lowest scoring offense in the Northern Lake County Conference in 2016, will likely open up its look under Robinson. Knar says to expect the Bulldogs to run a "modern offense and defense" under Robinson.

"That's a fun system to run," Robinson said of the spread offense. "We'll want to spread it out more."

Robinson knows there is plenty of work to do after last year's 2-7 campaign. But he is up for it, even though he could be severely sleep deprived soon.

Robinson's wife Kristina, his high school sweetheart, is pregnant with their daughter and is due in May.

"The first thing I did when I was offered this job was tell my wife," Robinson said. "She's been a great support for me, always supporting me in everything I do.

"It's kind of crazy that all of these things (football coach, new dad) are happening at the same time. But better that they happen all at once…(than not at all). I'm just so excited to get started, and to work with all of our really great athletes. I feel like I'm in a really good spot."

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