Like so many things involving college athletics, recruiting is a shady and nefarious business that extracts joy and pain from young athletes in equal measure. For every talented kid who gets an offer to play on Saturdays, there are hundreds who don’t. And often, even the ones who get offers don’t get happy endings.
Take the case of Damari Roberson. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound wide receiver/linebacker for Mona Shores High School in Norton Shores, MI was a prototypical star athlete destined for big things at the next level. Rated a three-star prospect by recruiting services, he racked up offers from various schools, including Western Michigan, Purdue, Minnesota, Syracuse, Iowa, and Northwestern.
However, as can happen, Robinson tore his ACL during a game in 2017, an injury that will cause him to miss his entire senior season in 2018. It’s an unfortunate end to a high school career, but the hope would be that he could heal up in time to get back on track in college. Presumably, the potential he showed on the field so far would carry him through.
Robinson’s hope was still to play for Northwestern, his No. 1 choice. However, Northwestern’s coaches took one look at his leg and said thanks but no thanks. And the way it all went down rubbed head coach Matt Koziak the wrong way.
“He wanted to commit to Northwestern, however he wanted to be up front with the coach. He said, ‘Coach, I want to commit, but I’ve got to be honest with you, I tore my ACL again,'” Koziak shared about the exchange between Roberson and Northwestern receivers coach Dennis Springer.
“And Northwestern was like, ‘We can’t take your commitment.’ So I’m texting the coaches and I said, ‘What if he would have committed to you guys before he tore his ACL – would you have honored his commitment?’ (They responded) ‘Absolutely, 100 percent, if he would have committed (before telling them about the ACL injury).’
“And so I said, ‘So he should have lied to you. He should have said, “Hey, I want to commit,” because you didn’t know he tore his ACL and then maybe two weeks from now say he tore it.'”
Koziak added that “Northwestern is no longer allowed in our building. They’re not allowed, at least to me, to recruit our kids. They are no longer welcome in our building.” For their part, Northwestern did not comment for the story.
Meanwhile, Western Michigan decided to honor their offer to Robinson and so he committed to them this past June. Robinson, who has a 3.6 GPA, plans to enroll early and pursue a business degree.
I AM COMMITTED!!😱😱 I am glade to say I will be continuing my next 4 years at the University of Western Michigan🔜🔟. Words can’t explain all the people I am thankful for and the things they have done for me. I love you all 💯‼️ #letsride #slowgrind pic.twitter.com/CNhGOesbgx
— Damari Roberson (@Robersonkid_10) June 15, 2018
A lot of people would likely defend Northwestern for their decision and plenty of other schools have made the same one. Still, it’s cold-blooded given how out of control the injury was and how so many kids do get injured and still get their scholarship offers. It’s a good reminder that, as always, college football is a business and student-athletes should always look out for themselves over the schools they’re playing for. You never know when you’re going to become expendable.