Practicing football on Thanksgiving is like waking up in the morning.
It beats the alternative.
Georgia Southern slotback Darreion Robinson knows about the alternative. Four years ago he had Thanksgiving dinner at home with his family.
Now, for the third straight year, Robinson will be on the shores of Beautiful Eagle Creek for an early morning practice. While he loves his family he said he prefers practicing.
"If we’re practicing that means we’re getting ready for the playoffs," Robinson said. "There’s a lot of others teams that are home at Thanksgiving because they’re not playing."
The Eagles (8-3) are one of 20 teams in the FCS playoffs, and while they won’t play until Dec. 1 when they meet Central Arkansas (9-2) at 2 p.m. at Paulson Stadium they’re practicing this week.
"We gave them Monday off," Coach Jeff Monken said. "Other wise we’re sticking to our regular routine."
This is Georgia Southern’s third straight trip to the playoffs, and sticking to routine has paid off. The Eagles are the only team in the playoff field to have reached the semifinals the last two years.
Robinson, a 5-8, 188-pound senior, doesn’t lead the Eagles in any offensive category, but he is an integral part of their triple option offense.
As a high school senior Robinson rushed for 1,416 yards and 13 touchdowns as he led Clarke Central to a 9-1 record and state playoff berth.
At Georgia Southern with at least one game to be played he has 1,405 yards rushing, and 12 touchdowns, nine by rushing, while averaging slightly more than five carries per game. Unlike high school, where he was his team’s feature back, his role for the Eagles is much different.
However, Robinson isn’t complaining.
"I think I’ve had a successful career and season," Robinson said. "We’ve made the playoffs the last three years, and the semifinals the last two.
"My career has been wonderful," Robinson said. "We’re practicing on Thanksgiving Day, and I’m happy about that. There are a lot of guys out there who’ll never play another game."
Robinson also appreciates the uniqueness of the Eagles’ triple option offense which leads FCS in rushing at 392 yards per game. Georgia Southern had 302 yards in last Saturday’s 45-14 loss at Georgia, 54 by Robinson on 12 carries.
Playing in a stadium that was about a mile from where he went to high school Robinson also pulled off one of the more exciting plays of the season when he returned a missed field goal attempt 59 yards against the surprised Bulldogs.
Only a saving tackle by Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan prevented a 100-yard plus touchdown return.
Robinson doesn’t include that play among his career highlights. Perhaps because he said it was embarrassing to be tackled by a kicker.
As a junior he had an unbelievable 43-yard punt return against Appalachian State that became a YouTube sensation. It looked as if at one time or another every player on the Mountaineers had a hand on Robinson.
Monken called it one of the best returns he had ever seen, and so did everyone else who witnessed it.
"I had my career high (124 yards) in rushing against Western Carolina this year," Robinson said. "That was special because it was a game we needed to win. My best run, I think, was a 78-yard touchdown run against Wofford as a sophomore."
While Robinson is a definite threat every time he touches the football, especially as a punt returner Monken appreciates him for the leadership role he has assumed.
The Eagles lost 23 seniors off last year’s team, and one of the concerns about this season was who among the upper classmen would step into the leadership role.
"Darreion has done a really good job (on the field)," Monken said. "He’s improved since the day I got here. He’s gotten better each year. He’s also done a really nice njob for us in terms of leadership.
"We really needed some guys in this class to step up to take charge and be leaders," Monken said. "I think that’s where Darreion may have benefitted us the most."
Robinson is the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons defensive back Dunta Robinson. Like every other player he would like to have a shot at the NFL.
If it doesn’t happen, however, Robinson said he would like to be a football coach after he graduates next spring.