Wan’Dale Robinson became a statewide sensation last season, earning Mr. Football honors and signing with the University of Nebraska after finishing his high school career at Western Hills.
But there are friends and teammates who have been with Robinson since youth football, who knew he had the ability to go far and are thrilled to know he will be starting at wide receiver as a true freshman for the Huskers when they open their season at home Saturday against South Alabama.
The game will be televised on ESPN with a noon kickoff.
“My first reaction was ‘hard work pays off’ because I have only played one season without Wan’Dale on my team,” said Nate Johnson, who started at quarterback for WHHS last year.
“Ever since FYFL (Frankfort Youth Football League), I knew he’d be special. He worked extremely hard to prepare for games, to understand what the defense would do to him while watching film.”
Johnson and Will Arflack both played with Robinson in the FYFL, at Bondurant and at Western Hills. All three were seniors last year.
“I just couldn’t be more proud to call him a former teammate and friend,” Arflack said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, even when we were kids, and I know that his determination and work effort are what earned him this spot. Couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Robinson originally committed to Kentucky but decommitted and signed with Nebraska.
In addition to starting at wide receiver Saturday, he’s also on the depth chart as co-No. 1 on kickoff returns and third on punt returns.
Robinson is listed as 5-10 and 190 pounds on Nebraska’s roster.
“He knew what he had to do in the weight room to get his body right,” Johnson said. “I’m so glad that he has proven everyone wrong that has doubted him because ‘he’s small.’”
Robinson finished last season with 1,973 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns. He also caught 31 passes for 725 yards and 11 touchdowns, went 8-for-10 passing the ball for 173 yards and two touchdowns, and he led the Wolverines’ defense with 112 tackles.
“I think all of the football I’ve ever played, I’ve been blocking for him,” said Arflack, who was a lineman at WHHS.
Neither Arflack nor Johnson think they’ll be able to watch Saturday’s game live, but Arflack said he and a group of friends plan to go to Purdue when Nebraska plays there Nov. 2.
“I’m glad he’s where he is comfortable and happy in his life,” Johnson said.