One of the most enjoyable aspects of the NFL Combine is observing the defensive linemen perform drills, specifically those on the edge who specialize in pass-rushing.
This year’s batch is no exception, featuring top-notch talent such as Guelph, Ont. native Tavius Robinson, who is among the top prospects in a group comprised of a diverse range of fascinating players with varying physical builds.
Measuring in at six-foot-six and 257 pounds with 33 and 3/4-inch arms, the Canadian wowed scouts with an official 4.66-second forty-yard dash and 1.63-second ten-yard split during testing on Thursday. He also posted a 33.5-inch vertical, a 10-foot broad jump, as well as a 4.62-second short shuttle and 23 reps on the bench press.
Robinson, who transferred to Ole Miss as a junior in 2020, saw action in 10 games that year and played a total of 381 snaps for the Rebels. He made 18 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss while also serving as a pass rusher, with a total of 10 QB hurries, two QB hits, and one sack for the season.
Playing in the NCAA’s prestigious Southeastern Conference made for a steep learning curve given Robinson’s background. He played two seasons at the University of Guelph after high school but wanted to continue playing in 2020 after it became clear that the U Sports season would be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I made a highlight tape as soon as I found out it was cancelled and started sending out my tape. Coaches would help me send out my tape and then the offers started coming in. Coach Chris Partridge was the first to contact me,” Robinson told 3DownNation.
The six-foot-six, 265-pound defender fielded offers from LSU, San Diego State, and Nebraska to name a few. But due to the pandemic and the lack of cross-border travel, he was not able to do any school visits.
“It was a little bit of a jump at first, but really it didn’t take as long as I would’ve expected. It was a different game, but I adjusted pretty quickly,” Robinson said.
“I had the mindset that I wanted to come in and compete right away, but I wanted to contribute in any way that I could and I ended up playing that year. Football is so different in Canada and they have a lot of great players, but I think I definitely made the best decision by heading to play in the States for my career.”
During his senior year in 2021, Robinson played in 11 games while making 28 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss, also adding to his pass-rushing skills, recording 10 QB hurries, one QB hit, and four sacks.
He returned for a second senior season in 2022, using the extra year of eligibility granted to NCAA athletes amid the pandemic. He dressed for 12 games, playing a career-high 620 snaps, recording 44 total tackles, eight tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one knockdown along with 19 QB hurries, 11 QB hits, and seven sacks.
The performance earned Robinson a trip to the Senior Bowl, which brought a high level of competition and a great opportunity to learn how to work with an NFL team. He has been in conversations with teams already, including the San Francisco 49ers and Tennessee Titans.
“Being able to learn an NFL scheme from NFL coaches and apply it on the field was great, an experience I will never forget,” Robinson said. “The verbiage was different, certain things they called were different from how we called it in college. And then communication was different so well.”
Robinson’s favourite CFL team growing up was the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and he is happy to see five Canadians participating at the NFL Combine this year.
“I can’t wait to see that number go up. It’s a good example for younger Canadian kids back home. Hopefully, we can be the example either way and continue to grow that number every year.”
When Robinson was asked if he had any advice for Canadian football athletes looking to take the same path as him, he indicated it’s all about mindset.
“I would say continue to work hard, first of all. They’re going to want to see your fire for the game and never give up on what you want. Send in that film to coaches,” he said.
“My [Uncle] has been a big influence on me. He played in the CFL for about 10 years. One of the biggest pieces of advice he gave me when I was coming up is don’t think of yourself as less than others because you’re Canadian. Have the mindset as the American athletes and you will be just as good.”