PHOENIX - In 2004 Zach Miller out of Phoenix Desert Vista was the nation's top tight end and the most heavily recruited player ever for the Thunder. But if coach Dan Hinds is as good of a talent evaluator as he is coach, then sophomore quarterback Gerell Robinson could replace Miller as the biggest prospect ever from the school.
Robinson - all 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds of him - is a raw playmaker that is still learning to become a great quarterback. But there is no denying the potential is there, especially when you look at what he's accomplished so far.
In Desert Vista's biggest game of the season, Robinson had a coming out party against then top-five ranked Maryvale. Robinson ran, passed and even had a big reception, stealing the show from the state's top ranked recruit in this year's class, Jermaine Williams. His heroic efforts sparked the Thunder to a 21-14 upset.
"It was definitely his coming out party," Hinds said.
"He made a couple nice runs, threw a couple nice balls, and then we brought him in at receiver. They had a D-I corner (Brantwon Bowser), but when you're going against 6-4 and 200 pounds, it's a mismatch. We put him out there, threw one up to him, he jumped up over the corner and the safety over the top and came down with it in the corner of the end zone.
"Then he came back for the extra point and ran the boot into the end zone. So he showed in that game a lot of athleticism, especially for his first varsity football game ever."
You read that right.
Robinson almost single handedly guided his team to one of its biggest victories in recent years in his first varsity football game ever. In the game, he completed four of five passes, caught that pass for a touchdown and ran in the two-point conversion.
Robinson landed at Desert Vista right before classes started this season. He was at another high school last year and he arrived in the state after moving from Texas. Word is that he was a local Pop Warner legend back in the Lone Star State.
Hinds said he knew Robinson was special the first time he saw him.
"He grew up in Texas and his family moved out here right before his freshman year," Hinds said. "This summer they showed up here and said 'we're moving.' They really didn't give me a lot of reasons why. I told them that's fine, and when they get settled in and he becomes a student, I can talk to you. Within a week, he was all squared away, registered and got going with us left. When he got in, we were done with all our off season stuff - passing leagues, lifting and training. He didn't get to work with us at all in off season.
"We went into our first game with our quarterback that's a junior. And then half way through our second game we brought Gerell in. He just does some special things and the rest has been an amazing ride to be on."
With Robinson's lack of experience there have been some growing pains and so ups to go with the downs. But when things are going right, it's something to see.
"He's not even come close to scratching the tip of the iceberg," Hinds said. "The reason I say that is because I usually don't gush about kids, but with him he's a good kid. I hate to use the word good kid. He's got a lot of character. He comes to practice, works hard and he has a nice personality. He's 'yes sir, no sir.' He takes coaching well, and he's never shown us any kid of attitude.
"By the time that he gets into his junior and senior seasons, there won't be too many players in the state that'll be better than him. He is just a big-time playmaker that's only going to get better and better."