There’s an intriguing name or two in nearly every NFL team’s rookie minicamp. For the Jets, it is Mason Robinson.
Robinson, an unsigned invitee, petitioned the NCAA last year for a sixth season at Rutgers following two season-ending knee injuries. He came into the program as a running back in 2007 then switched to wide receiver, cornerback and eventually safety. Robinson has just 19 career tackles. Those aren’t exactly the kind of numbers that jump out at an NFL scouting department.
But Robinson was invited to rookie minicamp by head coach Rex Ryan after a conversation he had with the Rutgers coaching staff.
“He was playing some nickel. I like him,” Ryan said. “The coaches at Rutgers said that no one at Rutgers wanted to fight this guy. I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s pretty good for a little corner.’ Now we’ll have somebody that will fight him but that is impressive.”
Robinson was a dominant running back at Somerville High School (Somerville, N.J.), a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com and one of the biggest names hauled in by former Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano for his 2007 recruiting class. Robinson played from Day 1 at Rutgers.
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He was healthy his freshman and sophomore years, but tore his ACL during the first game of his junior season. His redshirt junior year he bounced back and was healthy, in the first practice following the first game of his senior season, he tore his other ACL.
Robinson fought back to get on the field, no matter the odds.
“I’m a big competitor. I love being scrappy. I guess it was instilled in me as a little kid,” Robinson said. “I was the baby of the family and I always had to defend myself against my brothers and even my sisters. It has always been a part of my life.”
During rookie minicamp, Robinson has been in the Jets' nickel package and, much like Ryan described him, he’s been active and scrappy. He’s been getting praise not just from his head coach at the podium but also the coaching staff on the field.
“I try not to listen to that or pay attention to that,” Robinson said. “Each day is a new learning experience — be better tomorrow than I was yesterday. Even learn from other’s experience.”
When he transitioned from high school to college, Robinson stayed a running back even as many pundits saw a bright future for him in the secondary given his athleticism and outstanding footwork. Carries were hard to come by those first two seasons. He had just 77 rushing attempts and one touchdown his first two seasons — and then was switched to wide receiver where he had one catch. After his first ACL injury, he got moved to defense.
Having played offense, he brings an innate understanding of his role on defense.
“You see splits, you see guys on the ball, off the ball [and] you’re able to read it a little bit. When splits are cut, you’re able to read that a little bit,” Robinson said. “When you watch film, you know what’s going to come. When you’re on the field, you can sense it a bit more.”
Following his second ACL injury, Robinson requested a sixth year from the NCAA and was granted one, but was only at “85 percent,” according to him. He had 14 tackles in 2012, but now Robinson says he is fully healthy and ready to contribute.
In high school, at the Meet of Champions, Robinson ran a 10.51-second time in the 100 meters and during his Pro Day at Rutgers this past spring, he clocked a 4.35-second hand time in the 40-yard dash. If he can stay healthy, he can bring something unique to the Jets this summer and maybe beyond.
“I just want to do whatever I can to make the team, whatever it takes,” Robinson said. “Special teams, cornerback, safety — whatever it takes. I will push myself to make it, to make this team. I won’t settle for anything else.”
Jets notes ...
»Rookie minicamp wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux, who was cut by the Jets last week, came in on a tryout this past weekend but will not be back, per source. He likely will look at the Canadian league.
» The Jets announced the signing of defensive tackle Lanier Coleman (Louisiana-Lafayette), kicker Brett Maher (Nebraska), wide receiver Thomas Mayo (California (Pa.)) and outside linebacker Sean Progar-Jackson (Northern Illinois).
» The team also announced the release of kicker Derek Dimke, defensive tackle Roosevelt Holliday and wide receiver Royce Pollard, who was on the practice squad last year.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news.