Maryland Coach Randy Edsall needed a baby-sitter. More specifically, he needed a mentor for Sean Davis, someone to hang out with the true freshman safety on the bus ride up to Philadelphia, to room with Davis in the team hotel, to have that big-brother effect.
So he turned to Matt Robinson.
As Robinson has rehabbed his way back from the left shoulder injury suffered during an August practice that has kept him out of Maryland’s first two games this season, he’s played double duty as a guide for Davis, helping the Washington native acclimate to college life, both as a student and a starter.
On the eve of Maryland’s 36-27 win over Temple, Robinson and Davis sat together in their shared room in the team hotel near the Philadelphia airport. Davis studied the playbook. Pored over defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s complex scheme. Reviewed his assignments.
Whenever a question arose, Davis just shouted to the next bed.
“He’s been great ever since training camp back in August, when I was getting adjusted to the playbook, the schemes and all that,” Davis said. “I’ve used him as a resource, get to know the game and a strong defense. He’s just a big brother, a person I look to if I need help with adjustments, switching coverages.”
Davis was three-year starter at cornerback for the Maret School, a small K-12 campus in Northwest D.C. where the enrollment is 635 and the mascot is the Fighting Frogs. The football team competes in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference and regularly draws crowds in the low hundreds, not thousands. There, Davis was a star, ranked among the top football players in D.C. despite not playing until his junior season.
Adjusting to Maryland football, he said, took some time. He got thrown into the fire and quickly caught up to the speed. Self-aware and personable, Davis recognized that “my downfall is experience.” Though once he gets the playbook down and becomes more comfortable, Davis promised, he’ll become himself flying around on the field like “the real No. 21.”
That inexperience showed against Temple, when Davis and cornerback Dexter McDougle got burned over the top for a 62-yard touchdown.
Now, with Robinson returning to the starting lineup when Connecticut comes to town Saturday, Davis will do something he hasn’t done in some time. He will sit.
“I’m used to being on a field,” Davis said. “Now it’s a big adjustment, taking mental reps, which is a big change for me, and then correcting it on the field. The mental reps is a big thing, which makes me get better. As I get on the field, you don’t mess up too much. Having [Robinson] above me and watching him makes me better.”
But even as Davis works through the growing pains, Robinson will be back on the field, no longer jumping up and down in his sweatpants at the sight of penalty flags like he did against Temple. The two eat dinner together and break down film together, and their lockers aren’t too far from each other. They talk, joke around. Davis calls Robinson a big brother.
“Even when we’re on the field, he knows the system so well, and it’s a brand new thing to me,” Davis said. “I don’t hesitate to ask him questions. I couldn’t have anyone better.”
So here’s to you, Mr. Robinson.