When all-Canadian linebacker Layne Hull graduated from the program at the end of last season, the Okanagan Sun had lost a level of both leadership and skill not easily replaced.
And while Hull will no doubt be missed, the addition of Shaun Robinson to the Sun defense for the 2017 B.C. Football Conference season has made the departure just that much more bearable.
General manager Jay Christensen expects Robinson, a 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker from Halifax, to make an immediate and significant impact with the Sun.
“Already he brings leadership to the team,” Christensen said of Robinson on Sunday, the third day of the club’s main training camp. “You can see him on the field talking to the other guys and he kind of becomes a little bit of a coach on the field, I think that’s going to be a huge benefit for the defense. Anytime you can bring outside experience it’s a help.
“The thing you immediately notice is his quickness to the ball,” Christensen added. “He’s going to be a disruptive force no doubt, he’ll cause havoc for a lot of offenses in this league. If you do that, it certainly helps all our guys on the field.”
Robinson started for two seasons at Mt. Allison University in Sackville, N.B., including 2014 when the Mounties went a perfect 8-0 in conference play.
Robinson began last season in the BCFC with the Westshore Rebels, but after two games decided it wasn’t the right fit and decided to return home.
This season, itching to make a return to the field, Robinson looked back west to Kelowna where former Mt. Allison teammates Kian Ishani and Robbie Rodrigues had both played for the Sun in 2016.
After a positive conversation with head coach Ben Macauley and high recommendations from both Ishani and Rodrigues, it was more than Robinson needed to be sold on the Sun.
“Coach Ben was so straightforward, an upbeat guy, and that’s what I wanted,” Robinson said. “I appreciated how honest he was, where I’d be with this program. He really sold me on Kelowna and how beautiful it is. I’m loving it so far and am ready to get at it.”
And Ben Macauley is clearly sold on Robinson who he expects to challenge for top defensive player honours, not only in the BCFC but in all of Canadian junior football. He also believes Robinson’s influence will make the Sun a better team as whole.
Without having played a single down with the Sun, expectations of Robinson are high. But the 21-year-old linebacker is quick to embrace every one.
“I always expect myself to be the best when I’m playing, that’s always ongoing in my head,” said Robinson. “There are solid people on this team, we can be as good as we want to be, and I want to be the best teammate I can be for these guys. I want to do the same for myself, so it works hand in hand.”
Robinson’s stay with the Rebels last season may have been short but his impact was considerable. At the time of his departure—and for another two weeks following—Robinson was the BCFC’s leading tackler.
Robinson won’t have to wait long to see his former team as the Sun takes on the defending conference champs from Westshore in the season opener Saturday, July 27 at the Apple Bowl.
While Robinson harbours no ill will towards the Rebels, he promises to be in full attack mode when he takes to the field against his ex-teammates and coaches.
“I appreciate the players and coaches over there, they showed me a lot of love out there, but I’m with the Sun now,” said Robinson. “Football’s football, I’m going to come after them and compete.”
As for his expectations for his new teammates in 2017, Robinson said the Sun should be the BCFC’s team to beat.
“Hopefully we’ll take it to every team this season, it doesn’t matter who,” he said. “We’ll hopefully put more points up, stop them from scoring and bring that (Canadian championship) ring here.”