Former Auburn running back Jovon Robinson’s dismissal from the program was the culmination of numerous discipline issues through the team’s summer workouts.
Robinson’s former Georgia Military College coach Bert Williams said the situation with Robinson goes back to late May or early June. There was an incident with teammates that the GMC coach said made Auburn’s “staff unhappy.”
“It put him in a tenuous position early in the summer,” Williams said declining to get into specifics.
Robinson was disciplined but given the opportunity to get back in good standing for fall camp.
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“He had some things he had to do to get back in the good graces of the team’s leaders and coaches,” Williams said.
Robinson failed to meet those standards when in July there was what Williams described as a “final incident.”
“I do know he was a distraction,” Williams said. “I can’t speak to the level of distraction he was perceived to be by the coaches, but a head coach doesn’t remove someone, especially a difference-maker, lightly.”
The GMC coach’s account differs than the one Robinson told AL.com’s James Crepea on Thursday. He called himself 'stereotyped and disrespected” and said his dismissal was the result of an overreaction by the coaching staff related to last year’s issues with D’haquille Williams.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has declined to offer any details about what led to his decision when he announced the news Wednesday. He reiterated that position again on Thursday when asked if he had any response to Robinson’s comments. A spokesperson from the athletic department declined to comment pointing to Malzahn’s statement on Wednesday as his official response on the matter.
Williams wouldn’t speak to the report from ESPN that the specific issue for Robinson was missing practices and classes.
The coach did describe Robinson as an intelligent and capable student who had no academic issues during his time at GMC where the school has strict policies about academic attendance.
“We are probably one of the more difficult junior colleges out there,” Williams said. “You have to be a cadet and that means you need to have a certain amount of discipline. If a student misses a class they are immediately punished. There’s a zero absence policy.”
Williams audibly sighed when asked what his reaction was when he heard the news.
“The biggest thing is disappointment,” Williams said from his office Friday. “Tough background or not, everyone has a choice. For any college football player that’s provided a scholarship at a high level you want for nothing period. No reason for a student-athlete to get in line with the regulations. Participation isn’t a right and I think that’s something every athlete needs to hear.”
Robinson had a tough road to Auburn off the field. His father Jeffery Robinson was killed by the Memphis Police Department in a botched drug raid. The family was awarded nearly $3 million by a federal jury.
He committed to Auburn coming out of high school, but an academic scandal at Wooddale — one of the school’s advisors altered Robinson’s grades — made him ineligible.
The running back’s two-year detour to GMC was a successful one. He was the 2013 NJCAA national player of the year with 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Robinson’s first year at Auburn had its fair share of challenges including an ankle injury in the season-opener against Louisville, but he worked to earn the trust of the coaching staff and was expected to carry the load for the Tigers’ offense this season.
“I think he's probably a little more conscientious now then when he was when he first got here,” Auburn running backs coach Tim Horton said this spring. “He understands, 'Hey, I've got to practice and prepare for this in order to perform.’ He's doing those things well now that he might not have done as much when he first got here.”
Williams was excited to hear the positive reports on Robinson coming out of Auburn’s spring camp.
“I was hopeful,” Williams said. “He had a strong offseason of spring drills as far as the work was concerned and responding to the coaching staff. Everything was in order. He was heading to an outstanding year.”
Williams hasn’t talked to Robinson since his former running back was dismissed from the team, but has worked to get a handle on what happen.
Once the news broke about Robinson’s dismissal, Williams has been bombarded with calls from Division II and NAIA teams looking to find out more about the former Auburn standout.
“They want to know what is going on,” Williams said. “I had at least 100 calls from programs that want to get him in. I want to be able to be honest with them.”
Williams isn’t sure what Robinson’s next step is, but acknowledged the Memphis, Tennessee native has limited options.
“He either has to drop down or sit out and hope for an opportunity in the Canadian Football League or NFL,” Williams said. “It’s really a or b.”
Williams didn’t sugarcoat Robinson’s chances.
“It’s never just about talent,” Williams said. “Teams don’t want distractions. They don’t want problems, they want problem-solvers.”