COLUMBIA - Seven months ago, Shawn Robinson received the nod as Missouri's first starting quarterback of the Eliah Drinkwitz era. Now, he's taking reps at safety in spring practice.
In the time in-between, Robinson has dealt with the emotions of being benched and asked to abandon the position that earned him Texas Gatorade Player of the Year honors as a senior at DeSoto High School.
"My whole life I've always been a quarterback. I've always seen myself as a quarterback," Robinson said.
Robinson was benched for redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak prior to Missouri's third game of the 2020 season against the defending national champions, Lousiana State. Bazelak threw for 406 yards as the Tigers upset LSU 45-41 and never seized control of the position battle.
Robinson's attitude during that week really impressed his head coach.
"I'll say this, I'm really proud of Shawn Robinson," Coach Drinkwitz said in the postgame press conference on Oct. 10. "There could not have been a better teammate this week. Could not have been a better teammate. He was the most excited person all week."
When Drinkwitz first approached Robinson about switching from quarterback to safety later in the season, Robinson said he had to take some time to think it over.
"If I wanted to play quarterback, I obviously couldn't play it here and be the guy because obviously Connor is the guy. So I would have to transfer. I wasn't really trying to do that for the third time," said Robinson, who had transferred to Missouri from TCU. "So it was just thinking did I really want to do that or do I want to stay and try safety? I really like my teammates, I love my team and I love the coaching staff. And so it was just like, I'm just going to stay and play for my dogs."
In the second to last game of the season, Robinson appeared on special teams for the first time and changed his jersey number from No. 3 to No 12. Coach Drinkwitz again expressed his pride in Robinson in the days following.
"I couldn't be any more proud of that young man and I'd be shocked if he doesn't play quite a bit this week [against Mississippi State]," Drinkwitz said at the time.
Robinson did play quite a bit as a safety in the season finale against Mississippi State. He finished with five total tackles, a pass defensed and an interception.
He said the performance was enough to get him excited and fully committed to the position change.
"After that [game] I was like 'Hey we're going full-go now. Let's go.'"
As spring practice continues, Robinson is starting to settle in to his new role. It's an adjustment for his teammates as well.
"It's a little different. For so long I was practicing with him and taking reps with him and doing all the individual stuff with him and competing with him," said Connor Bazelak. "Now in spring and fall practice I'll be competing against him."
Robinson's attitude through all the changes has earned the respect of his teammates.
"He wants it and he's not going to stop until he gets what he wants," defensive back Martez Manuel said. "I really commend him and he really motivates me. He's just a hell of a guy honestly."
"It's cool to see him be able to take on a role and switch positions. I'm just proud of him and how he's handled everything and how he's kind of embraced it," Bazelak said.
Robinson said having the full support of his teammates has helped make the transition easier for him, too.
"It's so easy to just go full-go into something that's unknown when you have the support of the people who are rocking with you every day. They push me and inspire me every single day to be the best I can be. That's all I can ask for."