By NOAH TRISTER/AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING (AP) – As he prepares for his final home game, Michigan State’s Trenton Robinson is wondering where the time went.
“When you’re sitting there as a freshman in the back row, and you hear the guys say it flies by, you’re like, `I’m going to be here forever,”‘ the senior safety said. “Then you’ll be sitting in the front row like, `Wow, this is done. It’s over.”‘
When Robinson arrived at Michigan State, he didn’t seem destined to be a star. The Spartans signed the defensive back with little fanfare in 2008. But after playing a bit as a freshman and starting seven games as a sophomore, Robinson became a mainstay in the secondary. He’s now a team captain, an emotional leader of a defense that has helped Michigan State take control of the race for the Big Ten Legends Division title.
Robinson will play at Spartan Stadium for the last time this weekend when the 12th-ranked Spartans host Indiana. Michigan State can wrap up a spot in the Big Ten’s first championship game with a victory and a loss by Nebraska.
“You don’t get to the point of being voted captain without already exercising a great deal of leadership, and he had done that – and also made a lot of plays on the field,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “It’s his ability to step up as he did last year and this year that’s really elevated our team to be in the Big Ten championship hunt.”
Robinson played defensive back and running back at Central High School in Bay City, Mich., but there was no guarantee his ability would be enough at the next level. A quick look at his Scout.com profile reveals that Robinson was a two-star recruit, part of what was supposed to be a nondescript class for Mark Dantonio, who was a year into his tenure as Michigan State’s coach.
Now Robinson, wide receiver Keshawn Martin and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy – all 2008 recruits – have become key players. Worthy is actually a redshirt junior, but Martin and Robinson are part of a group of seniors set for their swan song at Spartan Stadium on Saturday. Cousins and wide receiver B.J. Cunningham – fifth-year players who signed on in 2007 – are two more success stories in the group.
Michigan State’s departing class has already won a school-record 34 games – including four over Michigan – and the Spartans shared the Big Ten title last season.
Robinson is part of a Michigan State defense that it ranked No. 3 in the country, No. 4 against the pass.
“He’s done an outstanding job here,” Dantonio said. “He comes to work every day. He’ll come out this week and practice as hard as he plays on Saturday, and he knows what to do and he’s not afraid to stand up and tell others.”
Robinson started 12 games last season and made one of the 2010’s biggest plays, intercepting a Michigan pass in the end zone early in Michigan State’s 34-17 victory over the Wolverines.
Robinson is generally pretty modest, hesitant to talk about his own accomplishments, but he admits that day was special.
“That was one of my favorite games right there – that Michigan game,” Robinson said. “How our team’s just come along and just grown so much since I’ve been here, that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Robinson had four interceptions last season and has four more as a senior. Two of them came against Minnesota earlier this month, when Michigan State rallied for a 31-24 victory.
When Robinson’s college eligibility ends, he hopes that won’t be it for his career.
“I don’t ever want to stop playing football,” he said. “I love this game. I’m going to continue to pursue my dream.”
First, his team will keep pursuing the Big Ten title. The Spartans haven’t lost at home this season, and they didn’t last year either.
“I just want to go out with a bang,” Robinson said. “Not losing in Spartan Stadium for two years would be a great thing for us.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)