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Faith, Family and Community, Darius Robinson, 2024 Male Winner

Darius Robinson
University of Missouri
Year: Graduate Student
Major: Hospitality Management 

As the NFL Draft approached this spring, football pundits noted not only Darius Robinson’s athletic prowess, but his versatility and ability to play multiple positions. 

Robinson himself said he’s open to doing whatever a team needs from him. He proved that in his final year of college football, switching from the interior defensive tackle, which he had played throughout his time at University of Missouri, to the edge. He said he wants teams to know that he is a low ego, high output guy.

“It’s really important, because at the end of the day, I have to earn the respect of my new teammates and my new coaches,” he says. “I have to start all the way at the bottom again — So, just show them I’m willing to do whatever role you put me in to the best of my ability to help win games.”

Robinson also has proven his skills as a student and as a community member, founding the Darius Robinson Helping Hands Foundation in the fall of 2023. For these accomplishments, he is named the 2024 Arthur Ashe Jr. Male Sports Scholar of the Year. 

“He has always been about helping other people succeed, while also growing in his own realm,” says Cody Hendrickson, assistant director of athletics/ student-athlete leadership. “Darius is always the first one to give back, to be involved, and really, he transitioned from this freshman coming in to this great leader for the University of Missouri.” 

Among his football honors, Robinson was named All-SEC and AP SEC First Team in 2023 and was twice recognized as SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. It is all the more incredible because he didn’t start seriously playing football until his junior year of high school, saying he was blessed to get high-level college offers. 

“It was challenging because you’re out there…and you want to learn the fundamentals behind it, which are very key,” says Robinson. “So, I had to be a learner on the field, so I could learn how to earn my way on the field. It kind of translated to the classroom with the mindset that I’m always trying to learn more on and off the field.” 

In 2022 and 2023, Robinson was named to the Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll. He was named a team captain, too, which shows the respect he received from his college teammates. 

“It was an awesome opportunity,” he says. “Obviously, it was one of my biggest accomplishments being named captain two years in a row. It really exemplified that I’m the guy they want to represent our team in times of turbulence, in times of positivity — and just for me to try and be the same person each and every day, have a great attitude about it, and want to make others better.” 

On senior night, rather than his last name, Robinson had Mizzou on his jersey to thank the university and local community. 

“This past year, from what I’ve seen, he has been the ultimate leader in helping teammates reach new heights, always being team-focused, team-oriented; it’s always ‘team’ over ‘me’ with Darius,” says Hendrickson. “He holds everybody accountable. He wants the best out of everybody, and he really helps his teammates get to that next level. 

“Darius, to me, will be remembered as a great student-athlete from the University of Missouri because of his commitment to all three prongs: to the community, to athletics, and to his academic success,’” he adds. 

Among his community projects has been regular involvement with schools in Columbia, Missouri. The Columbia branch of the NAACP recognized him with the appreciation award for community service. Helping Hands has been responsible for a back-to-school drive and fundraising efforts that supported two local families during the holiday season. He served as a mentor at Cedar Ridge Elementary and spent time volunteering with Playing 4 Hope, MU Children’s Hospital, Mizzou Athletics Kids Camp and Habitat for Humanity as well as other organizations. Last fall, he was named to the SEC Football Community Service Team. 

The 2024 NFL Draft is taking place in Detroit, Michigan, close to Southfield, where Robinson grew up. He says it means everything for his dreams to be realized so close to home. Although he came to football a bit later than many players, he fell in love with the sport and the process of learning and improving. 

Robinson credits the Mizzou academic department, including his mentor, Donald Senat, who helped ensure his schedule was manageable but challenging. 

“I know all the people that allowed me to get to this point, from different coaches and teammates,” Robinson told teammate Tyson Ellison for Ellison’s podcast. “You have to be willing to make sacrifices and be there for people. … It’s been a wonderful journey.” 

Editor's Note: Darius Robinson was a first-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. He went as the No. 27 pick to the Arizona Cardinals. He will be featured in the May 2 episode of the Diverse podcast series In The Margins.

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