Panthers draft Robinson, who left college for XFL

  • national NFL writer
  • NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
  • Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008

The Carolina Panthers drafted former XFL safety Kenny Robinson in the fifth round of the NFL draft Saturday, capping his unique path to the NFL.

Robinson earned all-Big 12 honors at West Virginia in 2018, but he was dismissed from school because of an academic violation. Instead of sitting out the 2019 season as part of a transfer, Robinson decided to sign with the XFL.

He was the only player in the new league who had college eligibility remaining. In five games for the St. Louis Battlehawks, Robinson intercepted two passes.

In an interview earlier this month, Robinson said his decision to play in the XFL accelerated his NFL timetable by two years. He had hoped to become a trailblazer for other college players in tough spots, but XFL owner Vince McMahon’s decision to shutter the league means Robinson will be the only player to capitalize.

“Even though it was only five games, I’ve played on a high level that the other college guys haven’t,” Robinson said. “I played with people who were in the NFL. I was coached by [former] NFL coaches. There’s nothing you can replace that with. A lot of guys can’t get that. And I’ve been around veterans and learned from those people.

“The big thing is that I was a professional football player. I was being paid to do a job. That was my job. I feel like, being around pros, learning how to be a pro, that just gives me a leg up.”

Robinson will join another prominent XFL player in Carolina, as quarterback P.J. Walker signed with the Panthers last month.

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