Plano East Senior HS
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An Inside Texas conversation with Plano East head coach Johnny Ringo on Keenan Robinson:
Inside Texas: What kind of person is he (Robinson), from your experience working with him?
Johnny Ringo: Very mature young man. Just a tremendous team leader, he's one of our captains this year. He just handles his business in all areas real well. Real smart. Made an 1140 on the SAT. So he's very academic conscious from the standpoint of how he handles that part of his business and then on the field, he's at times vocal, he's at times not, but mainly he leads by example and by his play.
IT: How did the whole recruiting process with Keenan begin? How did Coach (Mack) Brown first become interested? Who contacted you first?
Ringo: Coach (Bobby) Kennedy was through here Keenan's sophomore year and saw him at one of our spring scrimmages and then possibly the spring game, one of the two. Saw him once or twice that spring and became very interested, obviously because of his height and his size and said, "Boy, that's a good looking young man," and watched him play a little bit. Then the recruitment process intensified over that summer and throughout the fall of his junior year and then he committed last February.
IT: Have you met with Coach Brown?
Ringo: Mmm-hmm. When I was at Coppell he signed Robbie Doane, so we've known each other a good while and he was through a couple weeks ago, came through to see Keenan and Coach Kennedy was with him and Keenan took him around and let him sign autographs and that was a big deal for a lot of our folks here at school because we have quite a few UT alumni and people who follow Texas. Coach Brown has been through.
IT: That must have been a heck of an event.
Ringo: Yes. Well, we didn't announce it. So, it was a little bit less than what it would have been, but when Keenan went down, he had intentions of visiting A&M the next weekend. Same type deal, on junior day, but once he got in with Coach Brown in his office with his (Keenan's) mom and dad, it pretty much…I thought he might commit at that point. Having gone to school there (Texas), obviously I'm biased somewhat, but I can't be. I have to remain impartial in some respects and just say, "Hey, great schools are out there and both those are good schools. You go where your heart leads you and, luckily for UT, it led him there."
IT: What's it been like to work with Coach Brown and his staff in the whole recruiting process?
Ringo: Well they're tremendous and Coach Kennedy does a great job and Coach Brown as well. They really do a good job of developing personal relationships with Texas high school staffs. From A to Z they do a really good job in the recruiting aspect of it. They cross every "t" and dot every "i" in that regard.
IT: How well has Keenan handled the recruiting process, in terms of all the attention he's getting?
Ringo: I think really good. That's one thing about, he was still our leading tackler this year, like he was last year, and he had even more tackles this year and he played with a bruised shoulder and a bruised thigh much of the year. Considering that he had those two minor nagging injuries, he still had an outstanding year. He was All-State, he got all the accolades. In that regard, a lot of times when you see kids commit early, they start thinking about their college career and they don't want to do anything to jeopardize that. But that's not Keenan. He just loves to play the game. So he handled that really well. I think his maturity helped him in that regard, his parents have been a solid force for him. He's been given a great opportunity, but you've got to continue to earn that and hopefully take it to another level.
IT: On the field, what are the best things he brings to the football team?
Ringo: His intensity of play. He's a sideline to sideline guy. He plays from snap one to when the last second clicks off the clock and he's a guy that's very explosive with his speed and his hitting ability. He also crossed over this year and was a tight end for us. He only had seven catches, but four of those were for touchdowns and he had some two-point conversions. He's a very explosive player and he's a guy that's a great athlete and his intelligence helps him on a great deal on the field as well and then, as I said, he's at times vocal, he's at times not, but he's just the kind of kid that's easy to coach. He'll just do what you ask of him.
IT: What does he still need to improve the most as he goes to the next level?
Ringo: Well, just the speed of the game. We always talk to our freshmen about progressing from freshman to junior varsity, junior varsity to varsity. The speed of the game, obviously, is going to be a lot faster. That's one of the things he'll see. Things tend to fly around you a lot quicker and a lot faster. I think his strength level is good, his speed is good, but those are two areas you always can improve upon if you're going to be an outstanding player at Texas and at the Division I level and then obviously they always have visions when they sign at a place like Texas or Texas A&M or Oklahoma that they want to play in the league, and so all of those things are areas he's going to need to improve upon, but primarily strength and speed and the mental aspect of it, learning the ends and outs of offenses and why they do what they do. I think he does a good job in that area. A lot of times he realizes what's coming and he can pick up on that.
IT: Is there something unique about Keenan that a lot people don't know?
[Ringo laughs heartily, several examples obviously passing through his mind]
Ringo: Oh well…he's just a pretty solid kid. I tell him sometimes he's a goober. I tell him he's a nerd. Any athlete you coach, and we had some great ones this year that were seniors, a lot times they are perceived by the student body as being "cool" and I could tell them a lot of stories where they would say, "Maybe he isn't as cool as I though he was."
Ringo: Oh, you know, we give him a hard time about what he wears. He wears his Texas stuff quite a bit, but they all wear these aviator glasses now that we wore when I graduated high school in 1979.
IT: I saw him wearing them when he came in today.
Ringo: I said, "You know those were popular in 1979," and he think they are the, as they call them, "the bomb." He thinks those are cool. I said, "Well, I don't know," and they say "You're a 46-year-old white man. You've got no clue." [laughter]
IT: Is there a play or game of Keenan's that is definitive of who Keenan is?
Ringo: There were a few this year. He got one of our "Big Hit" awards at the banquet this year on a punt return. Legal block in front of the kid, above the waist, but the helmet of the kid flew off as he's going down. Different times that his pressure on the quarterback if we brought him on a blitz or things of that nature. There was a play against Berkner, I think we won that game 21-14, and they run an option and we've got kid hitting the quarterback and one taking the runner and those are both great licks and Keenan is in perfect position as the ball hits the turf and he scoops and scores. A lot of times he's in position to make great plays. He didn't have as many interceptions as you thought he might have, or as you might have at linebacker, I don't know, but there are a series of real physical blows throughout the year that are characteristics of him that would stand out.
IT: Was he a strongside or weakside linebacker?
Ringo: We flipped him a little bit, but he was primarily a strongside guy. He might be a Willy or a Sam in the defense Texas is running, more of an outside linebacker. They compare him to Derrick Johnson. That's a lofty comparison, obviously, and one that Keenan is flattered by, but realizes he's got a lot of work to do to get to that level, but I think he'll be an outside linebacker. We were a 4-2-5, not a 4-3, so to speak.
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UT Signing Day Bio: Prep All-American who was a three-year starter, primarily at LB as a junior and senior … tabbed first-team All-America by Parade Magazine … also earned first-team All-America honors from USA Today … versatile athlete who also played DE as a sophomore and saw action at WR … participated in the Offense- Defense All-America Bowl … was a member of ESPN's top 150 national prospects … a two-time first-team all-district 9-5A and all-county selection … recorded 273 career tackles with nine tackles for loss, five sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, six PBU, one interception and one blocked punt … earned honorable mention 5A all-state honors as a senior … tabbed first-team all-district 9-5A and first-team all-county … helped Plano East to a 10-3 record in advancing to the regional semifinals … finished the year ranked 19th in the Texas Football Top 25 … notched 118 tackles, four TFL, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned for a TD … also had seven receptions for 62 yards and four TDs … scored a TD on both offense and defense, along with recording 20 tackles, in Plano East's 21-14 win over Richardson Berkner … named first-team all-district 9-5A and first-team all-county as a junior … recorded 111 tackles, two sacks, one INT, two PBU, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries … tabbed second-team all-district 8-5A as a sophomore … registered 44 tackles, three sacks, three TFL, three PBU, one forced fumble and one blocked punt … also a two-time letterwinner in track and field … won the district triple jump championship as a junior … earned academic all-district honors as a senior … also a member of the A/B Honor Roll and National Honor Society … served as a mentor at local middle schools in the Brothers and Brothers program … active member at church functions … brother, Aubrey Smith, plays cornerback at NAIA Missouri Valley College … enjoys video games and cooking … full name is Keenan LeEdward Robinson … born 7/7/89 in Omaha, Neb. … lived in Omaha until he was six.
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All photos: Will Gallagher/Inside Texas