Congratulations to Spartans Elliott Robinson and Adam Rocha who signed a letter of intent to attend Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. late last week.
From the Sudbury Star: Dream Realized: St. Benedict standouts Rocha, Robinson off to Mount Allison
By Ben Leeson, January 9, 2020
Elliott Robinson’s football career looked to be over before it had started.
Self-described as undersized and soft as a ninth-grader, he nonetheless came out for the team at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School, at the urging of his cousin, hoping to somehow catch the eye of coach Junior Labrosse.
He did get the coach’s attention, but not in the way he had hoped.
“I came out and I broke my thumb at the first practice,” Robinson recalled. “I was a really soft kid, so I didn’t play after that. That was the end of my season.”
But he came back in Grade 10, worked hard and became a starter. The rapidly-growing youngster took on an even greater role as a defensive lineman with the St. Bens senior team the next year, and was a force for the Bears by Grade 12, eventually winning a city championship.
“I just couldn’t give up on football,” Robinson said. “I loved the sport so much, I just couldn’t turn away from it.”
Instead, it was Robinson and his teammate, quarterback Adam Rocha, who turned the heads of university recruiters, particularly those at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. The pair signed letters of intent to play for the Mounties men’s varsity team this coming fall during a ceremony held at St. Bens on Wednesday.
“It feels great,” said Robinson, wearing a garnet-and-gold Mounties jersey and a wide smile. “I still can’t believe we’re actually going out there. I never thought it would be possible. I have always wanted it, but just coming from Sudbury, I didn’t think it would happen.”
Brass from the Atlantic University Sport conference, and at Mount A in particular, may have found a pipeline in Greater Sudbury. A pair of Lo-Ellen Park graduates, linebacker Graeme Stevens and defensive back/special teams player Ben Campbell, are already on the Mounties roster.
“I don’t think it took too much convincing for them, after that, to come up here looking for us,” Rocha said with a chuckle. “That was a big part of the recruiting, you know, just the fact you have guys going there from Sudbury and there’s not some stigma that Sudbury’s not as good at football as, say, the Sault or southern Ontario. They just want hard-working guys who can go in there and work and that’s what you’re getting from Sudbury.”
A veteran of both the Sudbury Gladiators varsity program and the Sudbury Spartans of the semi-pro Northern Football Conference, Rocha took his final strides during the past year towards earning a commitment in U Sports, the former CIS.
Winning the SDSSAA title during his fifth year at St. Bens, under longtime head coach Labrosse, will send him to Mount Allison on a high.
“A lot of it has been gaining more confidence during the past year, more than I had in Grade 12, truly believing that I can make any throw on the field,” Rocha said. “Just gaining confidence from playing in the NFC, winning city finals, I’m going in with a lot more than I would have had if I had gone last year.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a slow start in high school, and it all came together one day. I went into Labrosse’s office and we were like, we have to figure this thing out, after losing to Lo-Ellen. From there, I had a decent game in the next game and just kept building on it, building on it, and by the time playoffs hit, it just felt like no one could touch us.”
Rocha also gave a nod to Aaron Rehel, his coach with the Gladiators, for developing his game as a quarterback, setting him up for a chance to succeed at the next level.
There were plenty of friendly faces around the signing table on Wednesday, but few looked as proud as Labrosse, who coached both Robinson and Rocha throughout their high school careers, as well as with the Spartans.
“I think this is every coach’s aspiration, when a kid comes to you in Grade 9, saying he would like to do that next step,” Labrosse said. “Then you do everything as a coach, you encourage them, they go to camps and do all of that stuff, and now, to see them taking that next step, it makes you feel good.”
While many may have athletic ability, it’s the work ethic and leadership ability of players like Robinson and Rocha, Labrosse said, that helps them stand out.
“They have that drive,” he explained. “You have a lot of people who aspire, but the biggest thing is are you willing to put in that work? That’s the biggest thing that eludes a lot of athletes who have that dream — you have to put in the work. It’s not just given to you. These two have done that.”
Robinson hopes the next crop of ninth-graders with gridiron dreams will find inspiration in what he and Rocha have been able to achieve, even if they’re as small and unathletic as he once was.
“It’s hard to get out of Sudbury as an athlete, but if you work hard enough, there are universities and there are coaches who will give you that look,” said Robinson, who plans to study business in university. “But you have to work hard enough and you have to want it as much as you say you want it.”