(Note: This is part of a series of stories on legendary Georgia Bulldogs.)
ATHENS – It remains one of the most famous games of Herschel Walker’s storied career at Georgia. It was Nov. 1, 1980, and the game between the hedges that day featured the Bulldogs’ Walker, “Goal Line Stalker,” facing off against South Carolina All-America tailback George Rogers.
And that billing did not disappoint. Rogers, a senior who’d go on to win the Heisman Trophy later that year, rushed for 168 yards. But Walker went for 219 yards, including one of the most famous touchdown runs of his career – 76 yards down the sideline while blowing past two defensive backs who looked like they had angles.
But lost in all the fuss over the battle of heavyweight tailbacks was what Rex Robinson did that day at Sanford Stadium. One of Georgia’s first soccer-style kickers to achieve national acclaim as a scoring a weapon, the two-time All-American split the uprights twice that day – from 57 and 51 yards no less.
“People talk about Herschel’s long 76-yard run in that game,” Robinson said in a recent interview. “But we won 13-10, and I had two field goals over 50 yards. So I feel like …”
Robinson stopped himself right there and broke out into a big grin. No Bulldog in his right mind would ever lay claim to having more importance than Walker to that game or that season. He wasn’t about to do that.
But Robinson truly is justifiably proud of his achievement that day, which included a miss earlier in the contest. And Robinson is right, the Bulldogs don’t win and stay undefeated without those two kicks. The 57-yarder was with the wind but the 51-yarder, was Georgia’s last score of the day and was dead into the wind.
“I’m joking,” he says. “Herschel deserved the credit. But I feel good about that. That was probably my best game overall statistically, even though I missed a short one (field goal) early. To come back and make the two longer kicks made me feel good.”
Multiple clutch kicks
Robinson made a lot of clutch kicks during Georgia’s 1980 national championship football season. He made a lot of long ones, too. He finished his career with six of more than 50 yards, which tied Allan Leavitt’s record of the time.
That record, like most every other one in the Georgia books for kickers, was subsequently surpassed by Kevin Butler, who would end up as the first kicker in the Collegiate Hall of Fame. But he was the second in a long line of Georgia kickers to earn All-America honors and, at the end in his career, he held SEC records for single-season field goal percentage (88.2), career points (269), career field goals and consecutive extra points (101).
Of course, Robinson was kicking field goals off a block tee at the time. Today’s kickers kick off the grass like the pros do.
Today’s kickers are much better, Robinson said. He should know as he taught them for years and still does a little work on the side.
“I coach a lot of kickers, and when they’re in their teens, they are primarily focused on how far they can kick it,” said Robinson, 58, who is small business owner in the Atlanta area. “They get preoccupied with this idea that ‘I can kick 50 yards or 60 yards.’ So they are not always very accurate.
“That was true for me, too. In high school, I could kick it a long ways, but I didn’t know always where it was going to go. That was also true for my freshman year (at Georgia). My senior year was the first time that I had ever gotten it under control enough to where I was stronger but also more consistent at distances.”
While a lot of people may have forgotten about those two monumental kicks against South Carolina, it was a relative chip shot that Robinson made as a sophomore in 1978 that made him famous. Robinson hit a 29-yard game-winner in the final seconds against Kentucky to lift the Bulldogs to a 17-16 victory. Georgia had trailed 16-0 at one point in the contest, and Robinson’s kick became a shot heard ’round the world thanks to the call of legendary UGA broadcaster Larry Munson.
“He kicks it up, it looks good. Watch it! Watch it! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! … He (Robinson) kicked the whatchamacallit out of it.”
Said Robinson: “That kick was the period at the end of the sentence. Or an exclamation mark, because (the finish) was so dramatic. Larry was so caught up in the whole thing. That’s what made it so memorable, because it was only a 29-yard field goal.”
Memorable place in UGA lore
Still, Robinson did enough to carve out his own memorable place in Georgia lore. His legacy lives on nicely, right there between two other All-America kickers in Leavitt and Butler. The UGA kicking fraternity is one to which Robinson is extremely proud to belong.
There have been a bunch of impressive ones to don the red and black, including John Kasay, Brandon Coutu, Blair Walsh and Billy Bennett. But Robinson might’ve been the first one to make it truly cool to be the Bulldogs’ kicker.
When Butler became the first kicker inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 2001, he told reporters, “I know there were a lot of kickers I looked up to growing up. The first one that comes to mind is Rex Robinson. I had some big shoes to fill when I got to Georgia.”
More than 35 years have passed since Robinson played at Georgia, but he still looks fit and trim, although his hair has turned silver. He dropped 80 pounds after almost hitting 300 pounds a few years ago. “I was right on the cusp of being a diabetic. I didn’t want anything to do with that. I made a 180-degree turn, and made lots of lifestyle changes.”
These days, Robinson operates a social media management company in the same suburbs of Atlanta where he because famous for kicking a 51-yard field goal as a member of Marietta High School’s junior varsity team. While he does it much less these days, he still occasionally coaches and trains young kickers when asked.
One of Robinson’s former pupils is current Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, although he makes it clear that Blankenship’s primary coach was always and continues to be his father, Ken Blankenship.
“It was obvious that he had the potential and the talent,” Robinson said of Blankenship. “It was just a matter of the circumstances of where he would fit in and have an opportunity. I was glad he had the opportunity here (at Georgia).”
DawgNation’s Michael Carvell contributed to this report.