In 14 years of coaching, Hilton Head Island’s B.J. Payne said few injuries have gutted him more than the torn ACL suffered by Dajon “Pugg” Robinson in the Seahawks’ season opener.
Covering the second-half kickoff against Whale Branch, Robinson’s right knee somehow got slammed by a teammate’s helmet. Season over.
“He was going to be one of those rare guys who have a huge breakout senior year,” Payne recalled recently. “It was absolutely brutal for me to see that happen.”
Robinson still has months of rehab ahead, perhaps a month away from being cleared to run again. When he does, though, he knows there’s a place for him to pursue the college game. He’s committed to Division II Limestone, which kept its offer on the table even as the injury scared others off.
“They actually were my only offer after the injury,” Robinson said. “But it’s a football program that’s pretty much up and coming.”
Limestone, in just its third year of competition, went 5-6 last season to exceed the win total of its first two years combined. The Saints actually stood 5-2 in mid-October before a closing stretch that included 10-win Newberry and nine-win North Charleston.
Limestone’s roster already is dotted with a half-dozen Lowcountry players — including receiver Gavin Bush, the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Offensive Player of the Year in 2015, as well as three Bluffton High players.
“He’s going to have a very great career there,” Payne said. “I think if he goes to Limestone, he’s a two-time (D-2) All-American by the time he’s done.”
For now, though, Robinson’s focus remains on simply getting his knee strong enough to return to athletic competition. Though he’s now able to walk without the bulky brace, he’s only recently been cleared to work on two-footed jumps during his rehab sessions. Jogging would be next.
“It’s been pretty slow,” Robinson said. “Slower than what I’d like it to be, anyway.”
Robinson mostly saw time at free safety for the Seahawks. It was his responsibility to call the coverages and make sure his teammates were lined up correctly. This season also would have seen him at cornerback, offering another look for college recruiters.
After a strong offseason, Payne was convinced Robinson was on the verge of moving up the recruiting charts.
“A lot of kids work hard,” Payne said, “but he had put himself in a situation to become a Division I player. He put on weight; he dropped his 40 (dash) time. He had three or four games to get his film out.”
Those plans, though, went by the wayside mere seconds after halftime of the opener. “One of my own teammates,” he lamented. “He missed the tackle and hit me.”
Said Payne: “I’ve dealt with kids with ACLs before, and I’ve never been more devastated by a kid’s injury than this one. I knew how hard he had worked to put himself there.”
Though Robinson’s timing is unfortunate, a torn ACL isn’t the career threat that it once was. Bluffton’s Cam Bent, for instance, amassed 863 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns just one year after tearing his ACL.
Now the goal is for Robinson to get back in time to contribute to the Seahawks’ defense of last year’s state track and field title. He typically runs the 400 meters, along with the 4x100 and 4x400 relays. His current timetable would clear him to run about three weeks before the Class 4A regionals.