UCLA’s been home to some stellar linebackers in recent years, but Jerry Robinson will always be the position’s gold standard.
That’s no criticism of Myles Jack, Eric Kendricks or Anthony Barr, the trio of terror that established UCLA’s defensive identity under Jim Mora. Nor is it intended of a slight against recent All-Americans Bruce Davis and Akeem Ayers, and even going back to the 1980s with Ken Norton Jr.
And, no disrespect intended toward 5-star freshman Mique Juarez, but Jerry Robinson’s accomplishments may not be matched again for a very long time.
In fact, when Robinson earned his third straight All-American nod in 1978, he was the first three-time honoree in all of college football since Doak Walker in the 1940s.
That same year, Robinson finished in the Top 10 of the Heisman Trophy vote.
So yeah, the UCLA Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame inductee and Pac-12 All-Century selection reached milestones that any player, regardless of program or position, would be hard-pressed to replicate.
Jerry Robinson set the benchmark for UCLA linebackers, but also provided a template for some other Bruins’ careers. To wit, he moved to linebacker after catching just two passes as a tight end in 1975, similar to Anthony Barr’s move from wide receiver and linebacker in 2012.
Dick Vermeil told the South Bend Tribune Robinson was “a dime-a-dozen” as a pass-catcher. As fate would have it, Robinson actually scored three touchdowns catching passes in his time at UCLA, albeit on opponents’ pass attempts, which he ran back for scores.
His first came in a 38-20 win over Stanford in 1976, a game in which Robinson also recorded a remarkable 21 tackles.
“I get so many tackles because I have speed,” Robinson told reporters afterward. “Speed alone does it. That’s why I’m always in the area of the ball.”
Robinson did indeed find himself in the area of the ball quite often — 468 times, to be exact. That UCLA record stood for 35 years, until Eric Kendricks broke it in 2014.
So no, not all of Jerry Robinson’s milestones went unmatched.