Freakishly athletic Canadian defensive lineman Tavius Robinson has committed to a Power Five conference school in the NCAA.

The 21-year-old Robinson verbally signalled his intent to play for the University of Mississippi in the Southeastern Conference. He’ll use his six-foot-eight, 250-pound frame with seven-foot wingspan, 4.60 range 40-yard speed and 35-plus inch vertical to play SEC football.

It’s an almost unbelievable series of events which led to Robinson joining Ole Miss. After the U Sports season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Guelph, Ontario native decided to take it upon himself and send his highlight film to NCAA coaches. He used phone numbers, emails and even Twitter to make contact by any means possible.

“When I found out U Sports was cancelled, I was devastated. It was going to hurt my development. Everything I do in life: what I drink, what I eat — my whole life is based around football,” Robinson said.

“I’ve had a few people tell me throughout my years that I could’ve played down south. I sent out my tape to schools and from there I had coaches finding out about me and I had more opportunities and offers.”

The first major breakthrough was when Ohio State University defensive coordinator Greg Mattison reached out to Robinson. The Buckeyes didn’t have any scholarships left to offer otherwise Robinson could have been wearing grey and scarlet. Coombs liked what he saw on video and vowed to help Robinson to the fullest by calling coaching colleagues.

“San Diego State offered me, Southern Miss, Nebraska, Washington State, Michigan and eventually Ole Miss came along. Lots of coaches said I had potential and I could make a big impact down there. I’m a competitor, so I’m going with the mindset that I can compete down there. It’s reality now,” Robinson said.

Mississippi athletic director Keith Carter called University of Guelph director of athletics Scott McRoberts to ensure all the proper rules and stipulations were followed. For NCAA purposes it’s treated just the same as if Robinson had played at a junior college in the United States, which means he’s eligible to play immediately.

As a freshman in the Ontario University Athletics conference, Robinson made 26 tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks, forced one fumble and recovered another while earning OUA all-rookie team honours. After producing 39 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, in 10 games for the Gryphons last season, Robinson was named a second-team OUA all-star.

“I didn’t send my tape to U.S. schools or go to any U.S. camps because Guelph started recruiting me at a very young age in grade nine. It was my hometown school, I was focused on Guelph, I didn’t explore other options,” Robinson, the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute graduate, said.

“It’s not that I regret doing that because Guelph has been a great place and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the coaches and the players helping me. They all just want the best for me and been supportive throughout the process which made it easier. All the guys, these are my brothers, it just shows how Guelph is a family culture.”

Gryphons teammates used to tell Robinson he was supposed to be playing at a high level NCAA Division I program and now it’s happened. Ole Miss hired Lane Kiffin as head coach in December and the former NFL bench boss brought a new staff to Oxford, Mississippi. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, co-defensive coordinator Chris Partridge and defensive line coach Deke Adams were the coaches who Robinson connected with.

“I’m expecting they’re going to want to put more weight on me. I’m around 250, if I can get up to 270 and keep that lean muscle mass and my speed, that would be ideal,” Robinson said.

“It’s a big jump going from here to the best conference in the United States, but I’m not going in afraid, I’m not going in scared of competition — playing with the best players is going to turn me into one of the best.”

His Uncle Junior Robinson had the same opportunity to go from Guelph to NCAA, however, he elected to stay with the Gryphons. The Ottawa Rough Riders chose the defensive back in the second round of the 1983 CFL draft. Robinson played 10 years in the CFL and provided unique experience for his nephew and the next pro prospect in the family.

Junior Robinson. (Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com)

“My Uncle has helped me out with a lot of advice. He’s been through it, he had opportunities to go down and play in the NCAA when it was his time, but he ended up staying at Guelph. He had a very good career in the CFL,” Robinson said.

The next generation Robinson has a focused and stated goal to play in the NFL. It’s one of the main reasons he was drawn to Ole Miss because the SEC produces the highest number of NFL players by far of any NCAA conference. The SEC led all conferences in NFL draft picks for the 14th consecutive year in 2020 with 63 selections.

“The most amount of players drafted into the NFL come from the SEC, it’s the best conference in the NCAA. I’m competing with the best and that’s going to make me the best player that I can possibly be,” Robinson said.

Most recently, Robinson has been studying former Ohio State star pass rusher Chase Young who was selected by Washington with the second overall pick in the NFL draft. He notched 46 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks and forced seven fumbles during an unanimous All-American season in his senior year. Robinson wants to reach his elite ability.

“Chase Young was a baller at Ohio State. I’ve been watching a lot of his film. If I could get to his level one day, that would be my goal,” Robinson said.

Robinson is in the process of transferring his academic information to Ole Miss and plans to be on campus July 6. He wants to settle in, meet his new teammates and be prepared for training camp when it starts. The coaching staff views Robinson as a pass rusher who can compete for playing time right away.

“Shout out to my family, I wouldn’t be here without them,” Robinson said. “They’re the people who have developed me into the person I am today. I’m really grateful for everyone in my life.”

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Justin Dunk is a CFL insider, sports reporter and news anchor.