Tavius Robinson is neither anxious nor nervous about the 2023 NFL draft.
The University of Mississippi defensive lineman believes he did everything possible this off-season to show NFL coaches, scouts and executives who he is, both as a player and individual. So the only emotions the 24-year-old Guelph, Ont., native has leading up to the draft, which begins Thursday in Kansas City, are anticipation and excitement regarding where he’ll get a chance to begin a pro career.
“I’m just working out every day and keeping my regular schedule,” Robinson said.
“I’ve done everything I possibly can to prepare and make me the best player I can be. I’m also working to get better every day so I’m not stressed about what the future might hold because I know the work I’ve put in and will continue to put in to become successful.”
It’s been a whirlwind for Robinson since Ole Miss’s 42-25 Texas Bowl loss to Texas Tech on Dec. 28. The 6-foot-6, 257-pound Robinson hired an agent, went through off-season workouts in Phoenix, participated in the Senior Bowl, NFL combine and Mississippi’s pro day while also having met with roughly half of the league’s 32 teams.
At Indianapolis, Robinson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.66 seconds while posting a 33.5-inch vertical leap, 10-foot broad jump and 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
“It’s been crazy,” Robinson said. “I hit all of the numbers I wanted at the combine and felt like I did some good stuff at the Senior Bowl.
“It was a credit to all of the work I did in Arizona and the coaches there as well as my coaches at Ole Miss who got me right for the season.”
The opening round of the draft goes Thursday night with second- and third-round selections being made Friday night. The final four rounds will be held Saturday, which is when Robinson, whose uncle Junior Robinson was a CFL defensive back for eight seasons, is projected to be taken.
“It doesn’t matter where I’m drafted,” Robinson said. “I’d just like to go a team that sees what type of player I am, knows what I can do and wants to continue to develop me and teach me because I’m very coachable.
“I just want to continue to make my game better.”
The draft could be a historic one for Canadian football with a record five Canucks projected to be selected. That would be the most ever, surpassing the previous high of four, which has happened three times (1986, 2014 and 2021).
The other blue-chip prospects include Syracuse offensive lineman Matthew Bergeron of Victoriaville, Que., Illinois running back Chase Brown, of London, Ont., and his twin brother, Sydney, a defensive back at the school and Eastern Michigan offensive lineman Sidy Sow, of Bromont, Que.
An NFL opportunity would certainly be heady stuff for Robinson, who began his collegiate career at Guelph. Over two seasons there, he had 65 tackles and 13.5 sacks while being named to the ‘18 OUA all-rookie team and its 2019 second all-star squad.
Robinson transferred to Ole Miss before the 2020 campaign as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of all football that year in Canada. Over three seasons at Mississippi, Robinson had 90 tackles (36 solo, 14 for loss), 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles (second most in FBS).
“I was worried at the time but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I got an opportunity at Ole Miss,” Robinson said. “I got there four days before camp so it was kind of a lot at once but I thought I did some good things my first season.
“I don’t think it [U Sports to NCAA] is as big of a jump as some people see it. Of course, the talent is better and the way offences are run and the defensive schemes are different but I got there just before training camp and adjusted pretty quickly.”
Robinson had 28 tackles (4.5 for loss) with four sacks over 11 games in 2021, missing time to start the season due to injury. Robinson’s original plan was to declare for the NFL draft after a solid senior campaign but he opted to return to school in 2022.
The decision certainly paid off. Robinson started 13 games last season, recording 44 tackles (17 solo), seven sacks, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“Definitely another blessing,” Robinson said. “Coach Joyner [Mississippi defensive line coach Randall Joyner] taught me so much.
“I’m so glad I got that extra year with him to continue to learn and elevate my game. I was definitely happy about coming back.”
But Robinson is much more than just a good football player. Twice he was on the Dean’s Honour Roll (fall 2020, spring 2021), was named to the SEC First Team Honour Roll (2020-21) and its fall honour roll in 2021.
“He’s very, very sharp,” said Murphy McGuire, Robinson’s agent and director client management for Octagon, a Houston-based agency. “Being able to adapt and get acclimated the way he did and not just be a guy but actually develop into a legitimate NFL prospect and leading sack guy on a team that at one-time had title aspirations, I think, really does talk a lot to who he is.”
Robinson said an NFL team drafting him will get a fully committed player who’s eager to learn and embraces the daily grind.
“They’ll get a hard-working player, a relentless player on and off the field,” he said.
“Someone who just loves football. Everything in my life is based on football, it’s what I eat and sleep.”