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Football Millikan

FEATURE: Linebacker Matt Robinson is Millikan’s Good Guy With Bad Intentions

The562’s coverage of football in 2023-24 is sponsored in part by the MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center Foundation and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Foundation

The562’s coverage of Millikan athletics in the 2023-24 school year is sponsored by Curtis Boyer.

On September 3, 2011, a young Matt Robinson sat among the sellout crowd at Grant High School in Sacramento, watching the hometown Pacers take on visiting Long Beach Poly

The best player on the field that day was Grant High senior Shaq Thompson, who went on to the University of Washington and is now in his ninth NFL season as a linebacker with the Carolina Panthers.

As a youngster in Sacramento, Robinson idolized Thompson from the stands, and modeled his game after the five-star recruit. What he learned from Thompson was aggression, tenacity, and leading by example–more specifically, leading with your shoulderpads.

“He wants to come down hill and hit you,” said Romeo Pellum, Robinson’s head coach at Millikan High for the past two seasons. “In high school football, there’s some kids still playing–that’s a man. His mindset is like a man, and he plays with bad intentions, and that’s what you want from a linebacker. Great kid off the field, but on the field, he’s playing with bad intentions.”

When asked what feeds his intensity between the lines, Robinson pointed back to his upbringing and how that inspires him to give his all on every play.

“Adversity, I would have to say. Adversity in my life,” Robinson explained. “Being in Sacramento, poverty, experiencing violence and stuff like that, that fueled me to want to get out and be a good person off the field … I use all that to fuel me on the field, and clearly it works. When I get off the field, it’s a family environment, but on the field it’s war.”

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He plays an old-school brand of middle linebacker, in the mold of enforcers like Ray Lewis and Bobby Wagner. In the modern game of football, that can create conflict. During last week’s win over Jordan, Robinson collected double-digit tackles, including four tackles for loss, to help bottle up the Panthers running game. 

Twice Robinson was assessed penalties for physical tackles. Not because they were after the whistle, but because he forcefully lifted and drove the ballcarrier to the ground. Plays that were routinely celebrated when Robinson was growing up are no longer part of the game, but Coach Pellum respects how hard the senior plays and isn’t looking to change him.

“I let him be him and try not to take much away from him,” Pellum said. “And I’ll deal with the penalties and the refs. Because I will never want to tell one of my players to stop being so physical. I won’t do it. I’m just gonna have to deal with the consequences of that. He just happens to be strong and he happens to hit hard. I’m not gonna say ‘Hey, Matt, stop hitting so hard.’ I’m not gonna do that.”

Robinson left Sacramento six years ago while in middle school, relocating down to Southern California. He first made his mark at Serra High School in Gardena, before finding his way to Millikan as a junior last season.


He made an immediate impact as a junior for the Rams, but has made even more strides during his senior campaign. He’s consistently made plays that jump out on film, and he’s helped lead a much-improved Millikan defense in 2023.

“Everything starts during the offseason,” Robinson said. “We were going hard all offseason, running on the track, hitting the weights, coming here at 6 a.m. and getting ready for the season. And as you see, it correlates to the field. We just bring the energy, and play like dogs with everybody flying around.”

Robinson’s senior season got off to a late start due to a dislocated rib, causing him to miss the season-opener at Punahou, but the Rams’ defense has improved each week with him back in the middle of things. 

“He’s a huge piece of our defense, and he’s grown so much from last year to now,” said Pellum. “Last year, I think he was still trying to figure things out, figure out the defense, but he’s been in it for a year and now he’s comfortable. He knows what’s expected of him.”

Robinson’s improved play has drawn attention from college coaches, but he’s still in search of his first offer. As he continues to showcase his physicality and playmaking ability, that recruiting interest is sure to continue. The biggest concern with Robinson is his size, which isn’t something he can do much about.

“If he was three inches taller, he’d be a Power 5, big-time dude,” Pellum said.

As the familiar saying goes, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. Matt Robinson plays like a dog every Friday night, and as his opponents can tell you, he’s got plenty of fight beneath those shoulderpads.

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.