Kalii Robinson didn’t want another letdown.
If Robinson learned anything about last season while playing for the Glendale Community College football team, it was that the defense didn’t play up to its capabilities. That was one of the reasons why the Vaqueros went a disappointing 3-7 and didn’t qualify for a bowl game.
If anything, the disappointing season stuck in his craw and he’s made amends to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“Last year, I took it personally that our defensive unit didn’t play well,” said Robinson, a sophomore linebacker. “We lacked leadership on the defensive side, and things didn’t come together on game day.
“We suffered from that because we had maybe a little too much individualism. We didn’t want that happening again this year, and now we have plenty of people around who can make plays.”
Robinson and all of the returning defenders met with Glendale college Coach John Rome shortly after last season concluded. The main task at hand was to find ways to shore up the defense.
Robinson and his fellow defenders got stronger in the weight room and smarter by studying various defensive schemes. Now, the roles have been reversed, with the Vaqueros ranked 10th in the state in defense and No. 1 in pass defense under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator and former Vaquero Doug Bledsoe.
The Vaqueros are 3-2 and 0-1 in the daunting Northern Conference National Division entering Saturday’s division road game at 7 p.m. against College of the Canyons (3-2, 0-1). Glendale college had its bye last Saturday.
The Vaqueros have excelled with Robinson serving as one of the team’s top defenders. In four games, Robinson has collected 27 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one sack and one interception. He also forced a fumble that he scooped up and returned 42 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of Glendale college’s 10-7 nonconference home victory against Riverside Community College on Sept. 19.
Robinson had 12 tackles against Orange Coast. He also tipped a pass from Tigers quarterback Nathan Lamonica to sophomore cornerback Max Williams, who made an interception in the end zone to help preserve the victory.
“He did take things personally last season,” Rome said. “He sensed stress when the defense wasn’t producing, and he was hurt by that.
“This year, he’s leading by example and he’s taken a great deal of pride in what he can do out there. He said after last season that he would play better, and he’s been proving it.”
Robinson, a Dorsey High graduate, suffered a knee injury in the Orange Coast game and didn’t take part in the Vaqueros’ 20-13 division road loss to Ventura College on Oct. 3.
Glendale college missed Robinson’s presence against Ventura.
Robinson would like to return to the lineup after having been fit for a brace on his injured knee.
Robinson and Williams have played football together since they were 8.
They both played at Dorsey before moving over to Glendale college.
“He’s just got that will to win and he does it by playing with aggression,” said Williams, who has 16 tackles and a pair of interceptions this season. “He had a bitter taste that the defense couldn’t help win games for us last season.
“It’s helped us that we’ve been able to recruit some real good defensive players for this year and learning Coach Bledsoe’s defensive schemes. We have a lot of people who can make plays. Kalii and I know what each other is thinking out there, and we have that type of bond from playing together for so long.”
The Vaqueros have seemed to mesh with a partially rebuilt team. It’s translated to some success with half of the season left.
“I’ve gotten to know the team better, on and off the field,” said Robinson, who had six tackles in Glendale college’s season-opening 51-29 nonconference home victory against West Los Angeles on Sept. 5. “We are taking every practice seriously.
“When you get out there on the field, you look out for everybody on the team because one weak link in the chain can hurt you. I’m a little surprised we’ve come together so fast because there’s new talent every year in junior college. Everybody has been playing well, and we go out there seeking respect.”
In other words, no more letdowns under Robinson’s watch.