Tampa, March 19, 2019- Robinson High Knights, formally known as Thomas R. Robinson High School, was established in 1959 and wasted no time getting down to gridiron business, going 8-2 in their first year under head coach Holland Aplin (1959-1967 as HC, 2x district and regional champs, 1x state runner-up). Fast forward sixty years and the smallest high school in Hillsborough has been on a roller coaster of season success, but one thing that hasn’t been altered is consistent loyalty and personal presence the school oozes. Let’s hear from Robinson’s heavily-involved mentor on top of the football totem pole, finding out exactly what being a fighting Knight entails and what the program’s rich, everlasting history provides its contributors.
“Wrapping up my first year as head coach here, my number one goal was reconnecting with the community as much as possible. We have a unique situation because of our small-town feel; it’s a source of pride for us and where you’re from. In the past, there’s been a negative connotation on the South Gandy [Bridge] area, but we’ve been connecting through social media and with local businesses this year more than ever. We are one of the oldest programs in Hillsborough and have a long history; we’re one of the few schools that has a ring of honor. The class of the 60s and 70s and alum follow them, are important for us to recognize, along with all of the people that are involved,” Head coach Craig Everhart states.
“I’m from Akron, Ohio and used being at a school that has so much tradition- I’ve been at Robinson [High] as a teacher and assistant coach for eight years prior to my head coach position here. Former head coach Mike DePue hired me back in 2010, and I was promoted to offensive coordinator after he retired. I’ve been able to see how special the program is and the values I bring from Ohio, coach [DePue] felt was important to bring here, so, I’m grateful for that. This is the kind of school that keeps its mentors around for the long run- we are really trying to push the family scene and keep that tradition alive because both coaches before me (Mike DePue 2003-12’, Shawn Taylor 2012-17’) were very oriented in keeping a tight bond with our Robinson family.”
Under head coach Everhart’s new-found guidance, the team achieved their best record in the past three years with a neutral 5-5 season overall and tied for second place in their district of 5 teams, at 2-2. Their senior QB, Kobe Copple, who threw for 1,711 yards and 14 TDs, ranks Robinson second among all of Class 5A district 10 passing leaders, playing one less game than the top passing leader and senior QB, Tyler Thomas of Jefferson, threw for 1,764 yards and 16 TDs in 11 games played.
The head coach proceeds with compassionate emphasis, “We started with some in-home visits about a week ago with our JV kids and incoming classes; I got a chance to sit down with their families and the first question I ask is, “what are your thoughts on our program and our progress from last year?” They seem to say one reoccurring thing and that is that they love how close the family aspect is and what our culture means for us; we’ve gotten away from the clique aspect of separated groups among the team, and have everyone involved now. Parents have done a great job in every area possible for us and we can’t thank them enough for that.”
“We all come together as a whole and it’s really special to witness- we want to have a football brotherhood that lasts a lifetime and seems to be going well thus far. The definition of Florida small-town football resides at Hernando High, which was my first coaching job when I moved down here, and they don’t lose sight of long-time tradition; I enjoyed my time starting up my career there. We’re getting to the point where parents have played in our program and now their kids are playing here; tough to find around this county and it’s something we’re trying to use to our advantage for sure.”
Throughout the entirety of the article, you may have observed that coach mentioned the word ‘we’ a considerable amount. Stressing the significance that there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’, never losing sight of the bigger picture and overall focus of where and who helped you on the path to success. It speaks volume to the mission coach Everhart has set out to accomplish and preserve, taking this program by the reins with confidence, courtesy of communal support.
The teacher and preacher closes surely, “How does Robinson get back to being a perennial team in Hillsborough? My biggest challenge is getting those kids that are zoned for us; we’ve got a great incoming class, but from a football recruiting aspect, that falls on me in some ways. I’m not going to recruit other programs, but I will certainly try my best to get the kids around and zoned for us first and foremost. The most important thing we can teach them is life lessons at the end of the day- you have to set your roots down and want to play for your home team. We’re getting there, but it’s definitely still a process; a lot of kids will move for better exposure, but if you’re a stud, you’ll make it out and be noticed regardless, especially in this day and age.”
“We have two recent Robinson alums actively playing in the NFL as of right now in Eagles’ defensive lineman, Bruce Hector and Chiefs’ wide receiver, Byron Pringle. The main message I’d say in regards to having the backing of the community and building relationships around Robinson is, that you can stay at your home school; you can get to the next level from anywhere and I hope we can get that mindset back into our all local schools and kids around the county.”
Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor