The Manitoba Bisons have added more muscle to their defence, as hybrid defensive end/linebacker Shaun Robinson will suit up for the squad in 2018.
A native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Robinson has wreaked havoc during his football career — one that includes three international appearances with Team Canada. He was so dominant that universities in the Maritimes began recruiting him back in grade nine.
“[Being recruited that early] was exciting, because I was more just thinking about which high school I wanted to go to,” he says.
As a member of the vaunted Citadel Phoenix of the Nova Scotia Student Athletic Federation Football League (NSSAFFL), he helped guide his squad to championship titles in 2011 and 2012 – the latter of which was part of a historic 46-game winning streak that dated back to 2008.
Robinson was named a CFC Top 100 prospect entering his senior year in 2013– one of just two Nova Scotia players to earn the honour. After weighing his options at year-end, he chose to attend Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. The team was coming off of an AUS championship-winning season, and Robinson also felt the school offered him what he needed academically.
His first year with the Mounties was “a learning curve,” but it also taught him how to “turn his game up to a whole other level.” He earned a starting spot after the third week of season and finished the year with 28.5 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles. As a team, Mount Allison claimed a second straight AUS banner, and fell just short 24-12 against McMaster in the national semi-final.
The following year at just 19 years old, Robinson shone. He was all over the field, collecting 41 tackles, 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and was honoured at years end with an AUS All Star selection.
“I felt it was important to prove to myself that I belong on the field with everyone,” Robinson says of his early success at the U SPORTS level. “I was just having fun and playing fast with the guys out there.”
Unfortunately, things turned sour after the 2015 season. There was turmoil within the program and Robinson wanted a change. His cousin and fellow Bison commit Scott Borden Jr. was also de-committing from U SPORTS football for the time being and suggested a shift to junior football.
“I didn’t really know anything about junior. But I talked to the coaches out there and trusted what they were telling me,” he says.
After reflecting on his options, the former AUS standout decided to join Borden Jr. with the Westshore Rebels of the British Columbia Football Conference for the 2016 season.
The duo went out to Victoria a few months early to train and make some money before the season. Robinson benefitted greatly from the guidance of well-respected defensive co-ordinator Shane Beatty, who had led the Okanagan Sun to a national title appearance the year before.
The first three games of the 2016 season went off without a hitch. Robison collected 13 tackles, half a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, but opted to go home before the midway point of the year in order to fully focus on school.
Despite an early exit, Robinson still grew as a player with the Rebels.
“I got better playing with all of those guys at Westshore,” he says. “And we were training with Shane Beatty so we were getting just as strong as the pros.”
The following year, Robinson returned to junior, but this time with Okanagan. He was enjoying another successful season – collecting 18 tackles and three sacks – before tearing his meniscus during the eighth game of the year.
The injury, which required surgery, took not only his season away, but also a chance to head to this years CFL eastern regional combine. Despite turning the offer down due to his knee, Robinson is optimistic that he’ll get another shot to impress CFL scouts.
“The rehab process is what it is. You just work towards getting that mobility and strength back. I’m excited to get back to the field, because everything is fixed now,” he says.
Despite his knee injury, Robinson was still attracting interest from universities across Canada. Bison football head coach Brian Dobie had wanted to bring Shaun in for a number of years, and met with him in Okanagan while he was recovering.
“We had a really good conversation,” Robinson says. “I liked how genuine he was and how he understood everything because he’s been around for so long and I trust him.”
Later that year, Robinson and Borden Jr. both took in a visit to Manitoba. They loved how welcoming the team was, and also knew that a number of former Rebels were also interested in joining the squad. That was enough to convince the pair to buy in.
Robinson will be coming to Manitoba early in May, in order to get a head start on his courses, and is excited for what’s to come both on and off the field.
“It’s going to be a violent defence,” he says. “We’re going to play fast and strip the ball. I want us to be number one in turnovers and run stopping. We’re going to play hard for sure.”