Surrounded by boisterous classmates in the Arlington Heights auditorium, highly acclaimed A'Shawn Robinson made official his decision to attend Alabama this fall to play college football.
The decision to switch his choice from Texas to Alabama came down to one factor, he said.
"Winning championships," said Robinson, a 6-foot-5, 304-pound defensive tackle at the Fort Worth school, who was joined on stage by "Big Al," Alabama's elephant mascot.
"I want to go where I can play against the best every day in practice."
And that he will do.
Robinson's college career will begin where the best reside and at the highest level of any program in the country. Alabama has won the past two BCS national championships and three of the past four.
Heights' acclaimed recruit will join 25 other incoming freshmen this fall in Tuscaloosa, Ala., a class that has been judged the best of 2013.
Robinson became one of the most sought-after recruits in the country because of his unique size (for a senior in high school) and rare athletic ability for someone of his dimensions.
Robinson said Alabama coaches have told him he will get a chance to play immediately, if his play merits.
Coaches also have talked to him about possibly moving to defensive end, he said, a move he would welcome.
The defensive line standout committed to Texas a year ago but decided to switch about a week ago, Robinson said, when he and his mother sat down and discussed the attributes of both programs.
Heights coaches said, because of that "freaky" skill set, not to mention an ideal demeanor, the sky is the limit for their pupil.
"He's already a prototype NFL-sized defensive lineman," said Curtis James, Robinson's position coach at Heights. "Now is to put on the polish where you can do it every single play.
"He's a freak of nature. He's a very special kid."
Whether Robinson's potential translates into greatness, as it did for notable Heights alumni such as Tony Franklin, Mike Renfro, Gary Stiggers, Roland Sales and Blake Brockermeyer, all of whom had memorable college and professional careers, only time will tell.
Nonetheless, he's already come a long ways from that first football experience as a 4-year-old. Young Robinson liked to hit, but didn't like to be hit, especially by the older boys -- most or all two years old than he was at the time.
His mother said she went to pick him up from the first practice only to find her son parked under a tree after having turned in his equipment.
He was done with this, so he thought.
"I said, 'What are you doing?'" Abigail Robinson said. "I said, 'Yes, you are going to play. I paid money for you to play. You are going to play.'"
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