Defensive end Tavius Robinson became the first person from Guelph to be drafted into the National Football League Saturday when he was selected by the Baltimore Ravens.
He was also the fourth Canadian picked in this year’s NFL draft.
“It’s so significant to me, because, at the end of the day, there are so many great players up here who, in my mind, if they were in (NCAA) D1 schools, they would be in the same position, but it’s hard to get that opportunity from Canada,” Robinson said in a video press conference held by the Ravens shortly after they made him their fourth-round pick.
“It’s great to see and I think it will continue to open up more opportunities for Canadian kids, which they deserve, because there is so much talent up here. Once that talent really gets tapped into, I think the number is just going to rise and rise every year, so it’s great.”
The 24-year-old graduate of Guelph CVI played District 10 high school football with the GCVI Green Gaels before moving on for two seasons of Ontario university football with the Guelph Gryphons. When the 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Robinson sent his highlight video to NCAA schools with the hope of continuing to play football without having a year away from actual game competition.
“I played two years of university football up here in Canada, and then when COVID happened, everything got shut down here,” Robinson said. “Football got cancelled. At that point, I was sending out my tape everywhere, trying to get a school in the States. Then, Ole Miss was one of my first SEC (Southeastern Conference) offers, so that’s how I ended up at Ole Miss. Then, I had three years there, and now I’m here.”
While waiting for a response from schools in the U.S., Robinson lined up a job to help pay for his tuition at the U of G.
“In Canada, we don’t get full scholarships,” he said. “You’ve got to work to pay for your school for the upcoming year so before I had gotten any offers, I had applied for that job (with 1-800-GOT-JUNK), got that job and was just getting ready to start working to make enough money to go to university the upcoming year. At the same time I was sending out my (highlights) tape. I didn’t know if anything was going to come from it, but then I got the Ole Miss offer.
“I think I was scheduled to go in for work, and then I got the Ole Miss offer like two days before, and then I quit and then was on a plane to Ole Miss like the next day.”
Robinson was with the Ole Miss Rebels for three years, playing in a total of 34 games -- 10 in his junior year in 2020, 11 in his senior year in 2021 and 13 last year including the Texas Bowl game against Texas Tech.
With an increase in playing time, Robinson turned in his best season with the Rebels in 2022 when he had 44 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and seven sacks.
“The game started to slow down for me,” Robinson said. “The more I learned from my coaches, the better I got, and the more confident I felt out there. I became a better power rusher this year, better at stopping the run. I just feel like I still have so much more room to grow, and I’m a sponge. I like to be coached, and I’d like to become as best as I can at this game. So, I think there’s a lot of room to grow, for sure.”
His five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last year were the first of his time at Ole Miss and showed a greater emphasis on getting after the quarterback and the football.
“That’s something that our (defensive coordinator) and D-line coach preach because turnovers can win games,” he said. “The turnover margin (and getting) the ball wins games, so whenever you get a shot to take that ball out, it’s what you have to do. A sack isn’t enough; you have to get the strip sack. That’s kind of my mentality with it.”
While at Ole Miss, Robinson also excelled in the classroom as he was on both the Dean’s Honor Roll and the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021, was on the SEC’s first-year academic honor roll in 2020-21 and also on the conference’s fall academic honor roll in 2021.
“It’s just kind of a pro mindset,” Robinson said. “Everything you do, you’ve got to do it at the highest level. To play football, you have to have good enough grades to be on the team, so that’s just something that I do. I’ve always been good at school so it’s just something that I do to make sure that I’m good to play football. I take everything at the highest level, basically.”
And he also hopes that the work ethic he’s displayed inspires other youngsters.
“It’s to show all the kids back home, all the kids up here in Canada that it’s possible with hard work and dedication,” he said. “It’s important that the kids know that. So, I’m definitely grateful for the opportunity and happy that the kids can look up to me, for sure.”