Port Arthur Memorial High School
NR (at S): 54 SR: 38 Star Rating: ***
An Inside Texas conversation with interim Memorial varsity head coach and ninth grade coach (and Port Arthur City Councilman) Shane Sinegal and Memorial defensive coordinator T.K. Harrison on Robert Joseph:
IT: What are Roberts strengths as a football player?
Sinegal: Well, first of all, Robert strengths are obvious because of his leadership capabilities. He leads by example, on the field and off the field. He's a quiet, to his self kind of guy but he leads by example. He gives everything he has on the field. Mack and Texas picked that up.
Harrison: Instinctively, he is a good tackler. He knows how to diagnose the play quicker than just about anybody I've ever coached before. He knows how to make it happen. He knows how to make the play. He's not just an athlete, he's a good tackler and he gets things done. His sophomore year, he was the third-leading tackler at free safety. When he's on the field, you know he's there.
IT: You mentioned instinct, is it just that he has that innate football ability to know where the ball is going?
Harrison: A lot of times as a safety you have a run key and a pass key, he can decide right now if it's a run or if it's a pass and that gives him an advantage to get a jump on the play.
IT: Was essentially a 'quarterback' for your defense?
Harrison: Yeah, definitely.
Sinegal: And ironically, he was a quarterback as a freshman. And he was the same type player on that side of the ball but he was too valuable to us on the defensive side of the ball.
Harrison: In fact, a lot of times, we check our coverages to the formation. I don't just call the coverages, depends on what (the offense) comes out in. And a lot of times, he would make the check for the formation out there on the field, whether we were going to play man or -- he made the coverage call a lot of the times. He'd make a check, just like the quarterback does on offense, he would do on defense. So he's intelligent also.
IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Robert?
Harrison: I think it was his athletic ability and the fact that he's pretty physical. He went up there for a camp last spring, that's when they first really got interested in him. They were doing one-on-one drills, and he pressed the kid, and he didn't let the kid off the line. They took notice. He was an actual football player, not just a fast kid, not just a kid that was strong. He was a good football player.
IT: What are the things that he's working on right now to prepare for heading to Austin in June?
Harrison: To fit in that secondary, he's going to have to continue to work on his speed, because they all can run, and he's going to continue to work on his strength. He's already fairly strong. He hang cleans 260 right now and squats over 400 pounds, that's why he's such a good hitter. But that's what he's going to continue to work on. He's supposed to get into track so he can continue to work on his speed.
Sinegal: A lot of people have said that he's a prototype of Huff, so he needs experience, and like coach Harrison said, the weight and speed a little bit more, he's going to be...
Harrison: I'll tell you who he hits like: Kelson.
Sinegal: He rocks you.
Harrison: Robert hits. Hard.
Sinegal: Punishes you.
IT: I heard Robert mention that he's played some corner for you guys...
Harrison: He played corner one game. Last year, we played against Humble, and they had a guy that was 6-9, and another that was 6-7, and he and the other guy we got that's going to Iowa State (Justin Robertson), they were the tallest guys we had in the secondary, so any time they went trips open, we tried to match those guys up because we had two little bitty corners, so we took them and put them on the two big guys, so he's played a lot of man-to-man (at safety). We do that a lot, especially when we blitz.
IT: That sounds like that fits into UT's scheme because Duane Akina likes to play his DBs interchangeably....
Harrison: He can do that. You asked the thing that coach Akina liked, that was probably it, the fact that he can play man-to-man. In fact, I heard him even say that. He wants his safeties and corners to be interchangeable, and Robert can do that.
IT: What's Robert size right now? He looks like he's bigger than what we have him listed at (at the time, 5-11.5, 175)...
Harrison: He looks like he's gotten taller. They say he's 6-1 but he looks like he's a little taller. Of course, that was last spring.
Sinegal: (Former head) coach Colbert has him at 6-2, 180 pounds on here.
IT: What else did he do for you guys?
Harrison: He played tailback this year, and he played quarterback in one game. In one game, he had 275 yards rushing, an interception, two pass breakups, and I don't know how many tackles.
Sinegal: Well, we had Jamaal Charles last year, so we had someone of that caliber on both sides of the ball. Robert was our Jamaal Charles on defense. Mack Brown came through the other day and called Jamaal a freak because he's a kid that comes through only every once in a while. And Robert is close to that also. That's what he is to us. That leadership capability on the team, not just on the defensive side of the ball. Quiet leader, that's the best kind of leader. By example and quiet.
IT: The Texas program is renowned for its family atmosphere. How do you see Robert fitting into that kind of atmosphere?
Sinegal: I've worked with the varsity from behind the scenes, me being here this week [it was Sinegal's first week as interim coach], Robert understands that I'm part of the family and respect extends. I get him first, but I don't see 'em for three years after that time. After he left freshman I didn't have much interaction with Robert, but Robert is the kind of kid that he understands the magnitude of his importance. His mom even said that just since Mack came the other day she sees something in Robert different than he already had. He already had the leadership and the demonstration on the field. If another light went on, man, I think Texas is getting a player they can put on the front page of their advertising of the recruiting class.
IT: Was he a guy that other teams avoided either running or passing the ball?
Harrison: Yeah, they'd run away from him.
IT: So he had the ability to change a team's plan?
Sinegal: You wanted to know where he was on the field if you were on the opposing side of the ball. You could see it from a fan's standpoint, you could see it from the press box, cause I know coaches saw it from the field.
Harrison: Against Westfield last year, the only loss they had during the regular season was when we beat them. Jamaal had 400 yards but what they don't know is that (Joseph) had 18 tackles and he made the winning tackle on a drive. They ran a slip screen, he makes the tackle, and if he doesn't, it's first down and they keep moving the ball.
IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Robert's ability as a football player?
Harrison: I can think of about 10 of them. We played against Pearland when he was a sophomore, and they had 71 plays and we had 29 plays because they couldn't stop our offense. Our offense had too many weapons that year, but we made them line up and take another snap and take another snap. We're up by two scores and then they score and get the ball back real quick, and they're coming down with a minute left, but the last play of the game Robert picks them off. We put him at free safety and he picks it off and is getting ready to run it back for a touchdown and I'm telling him to get down because it's over with. Another play, against Sterling, we put him at free, he comes over on a play that's about to be a touchdown, and he hits the guy, the ball flies out. There's a beautiful play against Tyler John Tyler this year, they go empty, so we go man and blitz 'em, and they throw quick to the No. 3 receiver on the bubble and Robert just squares up and you could see him come out of his hips. It was the most beautiful tackle I've ever seen. I could just go on and on and on. Interception when we played Spring to win the game, coming down. It looks like no one wants to win the game, because they keep turning it over, we keep turning it over, he gets the interception and stops them right there because they were about to go in and score. Then he turned around and scored a touchdown on offense.
IT: He played mainly free safety for you, but he's a guy you think could play either safety spot?
Harrison: When we were in our 4-2-5 scheme, he was still free safety but we moved him over to the tight end side, because we wanted him over to the most receiver side. It was a free safety scheme, so we cheated him over just a little bit to the tight end side. That's the guy that they can't block and he's going to make the tackle. When Robert tackles you, it stops. Whatever was going on, it stops. At this level, that's what I've seen. Of course, he's going to have to get bigger, maybe, but we said that about Jamaal and he seems to be doing alright.
IT: With his frame, what do you see as his ideal height/weight?
Harrison: I don't know how much taller he's going to get, but it looks like to me, he could be an NFL safety someday, and I'm not talking about an undersized safety, but like a Roy Williams-type. He could be 220 and carry it well. And keep his speed.
IT: What's he doing to work on his speed?
Sinegal: He's running track and that's the key. The track season hasn't started yet and we have a new track who's a speed coach.
IT: Is there anything you'd like to add about Robert that we didn't already cover?
Sinegal: I also coached Jordan Babineaux, who's playing in the Super Bowl, who was one of our kids prior to consolidating, and Robert has the same intensity, no, more, more intensity and understanding of the scheme of the defense, and Jordan plays the nickel package for the Seattle Seahawks, and Jordan loves to hit also. I think you can put Robert on special teams...
Harrison: Robert is a natural. He's a football player.
Sinegal: ...he's an athlete. You can put him anywhere. You can put him at offensive guard and he'll get the job done other than being undersized.
Harrison: On defense, he had to practice on defense. You can't just throw people out there, they've got to know what's going on, because on defense you face a different offense every week. So he spent most of his time practicing on defense. He didn't practice that much on offense, maybe a couple of periods each day, that's it, and they'd have some plays in for him and maybe the base plays that they've been doing since day one in the ninth and tenth grade, and he would come in and make the adjustment. He's not the type that has to do ball drills every day like receivers do. He doesn't have to do it. He can go out there and just do it. He's just a football player.
UT's Signing Day bio: Versatile, three-year letterman who was a two-way standout
a two-time all-state and three-time all-district pick at free safety
recorded 213 tackles (132 solo) and three interceptions over his final two seasons
also played running back, wide receiver and quarterback
was a Willie Ray Smith finalist (Outstanding Offensive and Defensive Players in Beaumont area) as a junior and senior
tabbed first team 5A all-state by The Associated Press as a senior
earned second-team all-state honors from the Texas Sports Writers Association
named the district MVP
was a member of the Port Arthur News Super team for three years and was named that publication's Defensive Player of the Year as a senior
tabbed second-team all-Greater Houston
named to Dave Campbell's Super Team second team in the preseason
notched 80 tackles (54 solo) two TFL, one INT and one forced fumble in only seven games that year
named honorable mention all-state by The Associated Press and the Texas Sports Writers Association as a junior
earned first team all-district (22-5A) honors
recorded 133 tackles (78 solo), 14 PBU and two INTs that year
earned second team all-district as a sophomore
has been on the Honor Roll since his sophomore year
ran track for the first time as a senior
enjoys playing video games
full name is Robert F. Joseph
born Sept. 11, 1987 in Port Arthur, Texas.
"It's been a dream my whole life to play at Texas, and I had the opportunity to have it come true. It's a very family oriented program. Coach Brown is down to earth and humble, and I'm excited to play there."
NEXT UP: DEON BEASLEY
[Note: Roy Watts was originally scheduled for today, but his report will now come later in the series.]
All photos: Will Gallagher/Inside Texas