High school football: Salisbury’s Robins to kick for JMU

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 24, 2022

By Mike London

SALISBURY — Wade Robins kicked a 64-yard field goal last week.

No pressure, no onrushing linemen, no screaming fans, plus a helpful breeze, but 64 yards is 64 yards.

What those 64 yards mean is that while James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, Va., will be the next stop for the Salisbury senior on his football journey, it may not be the last stop.

Despite his numerous accomplishments and accolades, Robins is still pretty new to the art of kicking footballs. He definitely hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.

“He’s been a soccer player,a golfer and a part-time baseball player,” Salisbury head football coach Brian Hinson said. “We’ve barely had him at football practice due to his other sports. When he’s focused year-round on kicking footballs, you’ll see him get even better.”

With purple and gold balloons fluttering, Robins made things official with JMU’s famed football program on Tuesday afternoon.

Robins says it was his dream school all along.

He had verbally committed to Elon at one point, but James Madison was his first choice, and Robins said “JMU finally came through” about a month ago. Gardner-Webb also pursued Robins, and needless to say, Catawba tried hard to talk him into staying at home with the Indians.

“He’s getting to go to the school where he really wants to go,” Hinson said. “You’re always ecstatic when an athlete gets to go to his first choice. And he deserves it. He’s put a lot of work in.”

There’s a local connection. JMU’s special teams coordinator is former Catawba player Grant Cain, who has been friends with Hinson for many years. Hinson made contact with Cain, letting him know there was a kicker in Salisbury that the JMU Dukes might want to look at.

Robins’ story is pretty well-known.

He was a good enough soccer player as Salisbury’s goalkeeper that he was Co-Rowan County Player of the Year in that sport in the spring of 2021.

That was a zany junior year for Robins. With COVID disrupting the normal seasonal schedules, Robins competed in golf, baseball, football and soccer — all in the same semester.

Not long after his soccer award, he became a folk hero for Salisbury fans after his clutch, end-of-game field goals made the difference in challenging state playoff struggles against Burns (10-7) and North Davidson (24-21) on the road to Salisbury’s football state championship during the COVID-delayed spring season.

“I’m an old offensive lineman and I’m not much of a kicking coach,” Hinson said. “About all I could do was try to make Wade laugh, to get him to relax. But he’s very good under pressure. He doesn’t rattle. He’s made some kicks not many high school kids would have made.”

Mostly on the strength of those two enormous kicks, Robins was named the Rowan County Special Teams Player of the Year.

“Every kicker dreams that he’ll get that opportunity to decide a game someday, and it happened for me two straight weeks,” Robins said.

In the fall of 2021, Salisbury didn’t repeat as state champs, but the Hornets enjoyed an even more dominant regular season.

Robins only had to kick one field goal, but he booted 65 extra points and put 45 kickoffs in the end zone. He personally won the field-position battle for the Hornets just about every Friday, and he was honored for the second time as Rowan County Special Teams Player of the Year.

“Those touchbacks were the biggest thing as far as the fall season,” Robins said. “I also was our punter, but we only had to punt three or four times all season, and it’s not like we were having to kick many field goals. We were scoring touchdowns on every drive.”

Robins began the transition from soccer kid to football-first guy between his sophomore and junior years at Salisbury.

He attended a series of kicking camps, got seen by coaches, got his name out there.

Robinson has made most of his strides as a pupil of famed kicking and punting instructor Dan Orner, who has developed a host of high-level booters.

“He’s the best there is as far as the technical aspects of kicking a football,” Robins said. “And kicking a football is mostly technique. I’ve really improved my timing during the last two years.”

It also helps to have a powerful leg, and Robins has leg strength that is almost supernatural relative to his physical stature of 6 feet, 165 pounds.

In one major showcase, Robins had 3.61 seconds of hang-time on a 63-yard kickoff, and he produced some 67-yard kickoffs.

In the fall, Robins will move on to JMU.

There are two kickers on the current roster, and while he knows he’ll be part of the team, his mission is going to be to compete for a significant role as a freshman.

James Madison has glorious football tradition that includes alums such as NFL Hall of Famer Charles Haley, four-time Pro Bowl receiver Gary Clark and Scott Norwood, a kicker who produced more than 600 points at the highest level of football.

The Dukes own two FCS national titles as well as runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2019.

JMU will be moving up in the fall to the FBS level. The Dukes will be in the Sun Belt Conference with Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina, among others.

“They’re playing Louisville in the fall,” Robins said. “It’s exciting.”