Don't take my word for it, ask David Robinson, a former wide receiver at Oklahoma University (2002-06) who now trains some of the best athletes in the world of football.
“Coach Rob,” as his athlete friends call him, has been specializing in getting the most out of football players – specifically wide receivers – for eight years and many of his former clients are now stars. There's Emmanuel Sanders of the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, Reuben Randle of the New York Giants, Jordan Reed of the Washington Redskins and last offseason Robinson worked with renowned running back Adrian Peterson.
Check the resume. It's stacked.
Now, Robinson is working with Rashard Higgins, the greatest wideout in Colorado State Rams football history, as the NFL Scouting Combine nears (Feb. 23-29).
Actually, “Coach Rob” and Higgins have been working together since Rashard was in ninth grade, he explained in an interview Friday afternoon.
“He's a home-grown kid,” said Robinson from Dallas, Texas. “He's been with me since he didn't want to take football serious. He was a basketball guy. I think his junior year going into his senior year he just bought all-in. Quit basketball really and just dedicated his craft to football. That's crazy man, because he wanted to go to college for basketball. He didn't like football like that. That wasn't his thing.”
It is wild to think, what if Rashard Higgins never played college football and stuck with hoops instead? Ram fans would've missed out on all the highlight reel worthy plays, the game-changing and winning plays over the last three years. We would've all missed out on his ability to turn a five-yard out into a 70-yard touchdown, his remarkable route-running and the aggressiveness to attack the ball at its height.
So, how did Coach Rob help change Higgins' mind?
“He started coming out there with a receiver that went to school with him, Damian Gamblin,” Robinson said of how Higgins was won over by football. “Rashard got to seeing how polished Damian's routes were and he wanted his routes to look similar to Damian's, he wanted to be fine-tuned. What really woke him up is when I put him through a lot of workout drills, how rusty and how bad his footwork was. But you could see the potential because he always snatched the ball so effortlessly away from his body. We just needed to clean up his footwork mechanics, his arm mechanics and his route running.”
After Higgins got a taste of what Robinson's coaching could do, he was hooked. He went from simply going through the motions to being more involved, asking questions, studying and flying home to work on his craft with his hometown coach.
“On spring breaks or certain breaks they give guys to go home, he never was going home or going somewhere relaxing, he was always coming home, working on his craft with me,” Robinson explained of Higgins' burning desire to improve. “Once he started coming home in college more, coming back to Dallas to work on his skill-set in between time, that's when it clicked to me. He's taking this serious.
“The more he started believing in his ability, he became a wideout junkie,” Robinson said. “Always asking questions, loves watching film, he always wants to learn more about the game. That's the growth I've seen from his freshman through his junior year at Colorado State.”
For those wondering how Higgins went from playing well as a freshman (68 receptions, 837 yards, 6 TDs) to playing other-worldly as a sophomore and ending up as a consensus All-American (96 rec., 1,750 yds., 17 TDs), it's clear he was consistently working to improve. It wasn't just with Robinson, either, but Rams receiver's coach Alvis Whitted.
“A lot of people at the Combine are going to be blown away with how polished he is because Coach Whitted has done a great job with him at Colorado State,” Coach Rob said. “Whitted has taught him, just like I have, the whole route tree. He knows pretty much the whole pro-style route tree. And most these other receivers...they don't really know how to run curls, come-backs, digs, post-corners. Rashard's been doing that in practice for the past three years every day.
“So, I think he'll transition to the pro level a lot smoother than a lot of people think,” Robinson continued. “Every time Rashard comes home to Dallas, Coach Whitted will tell me, 'Make sure Rashard is in the lab working. I don't want him to get comfortable.' Whitted always stayed on him to not get comfortable and stay humble.”
Robinson is proud of “Hollywood” for going to New York as a Belitnikoff Award aspirant and becoming a poster boy for the Rams but never losing grips with reality, with the young man he's always been. Not only does Higgins remind Robinson of former pupil Reuben Randle, but he was also compared to wideout great Jerry Rice.
“He's similar to how some guys would say Jerry Rice was a homebody, that's kind of how Rashard is,” Robinson said. “He stays in the house a lot just watching film, just football. That's all he's got is football.
“He's been wanting it so bad because he's been counted out his whole life, even in the recruiting process,” Coach Rob explained. “He still feels like the world passed over him by not getting recruited. Every Saturday that he took the field, I know that's a big chip on his shoulder, to show people what they missed out on and that they should have recruited him.”
Now, Higgins takes that chip on his shoulder – the one formed when he was looked over by the biggest schools during the recruiting period of his senior year in high school – to the NFL Scouting Combine.
Speaking of the Combine, Robinson said they've timed Higgins at 4.55 and as fast as 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, which will be just fine the coach said. And, he predicts the former CSU standout to go in the mid-second round, higher than the experts are currently saying (third round).
Teams looking at Higgins are the Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers, among likely others.
For now, watch these videos of Higgins in drills in the lead-up to the Combine: