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A national spotlight is being cast on Rockford Lutheran graduate James Robinson at Illinois State

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NORMAL, IL (WTVO) — James Robinson did big things when he was running with the football at Rockford Lutheran. Now as he enters his senior year at Illinois State big things are being expected from him once again.

Robinson gained national attention last year with his production for the Redbirds. He led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing with 1,290 yards. He scored 12 touchdowns. For that he was named a second team All-American, and he was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award…that’s Football Championship Subdivision’s version of the Heisman Trophy.

Now he’s been named a preseason First Team All-American by HERO Sports and by STATS FCS, and he’s projected to be one of the top contenders for the Payton Award.

Robinson hears the praise, he just doesn’t let it sink in very deep.

” I just try not to pay attention to it,” he told Eyewitness News Tuesday during ISU’s media day. “On social media it’s everywhere. There’s not really much I can really say about it. It’s just there, so I don’t really pay attention to it at all.”

No one is looking forward more to seeing what Robinson can do this year than ISU head coach Brock Spack is. Spack sees Robinson being a running back who can be a huge difference-maker especially in crunch time.

“I’m always very excited for James because James can take a game over when he wants to,” said Spack. “He’s a physical back. It’s what I was used to when I was a Big Ten guy. When you’ve got a big back and you’ve got a lead and you’re playing a four-minute offense you expect that big back to take over a game, so hopefully he can do that.”

Robinson is always looking for ways to take his game up another notch.

“Every year for me it’s going to be my speed and just being more patient. I think I did that pretty good last year.”

Robinson enters this season already in fifth place on Illinois State’s all-time rushing list. He has a realistic chance to finish as the school’s second all-time leading rusher, but Robinson’s goals are more about the team and finishing his career on a winning note.

“For some of us it’s our last yea,r and we want to make it to the playoffs this year,” said Robinson. “Last year there were a lot of games that we should have won but we didn’t. This year is a special year for us.”

I asked Spack if he sees a little fire in Robinson’s eyes going into his senior season.

“I think so,” said Spack. “I’m sure he’d like to win the Payton Award. That’s our Heisman Trophy. He’s a guy that should be highly considered for it, but you’ve got to produce.”

Robinson and the Redbirds will open their season Saturday, August 31 at Northern Illinois University. It’ll be a 6 p.m. start.

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