Eric Robbins and Marty Cheeseman can tell stories when their sons' names weren't on any college recruiting lists, and the only phone calls they received were from high school friends that sound like the product of a fiction writer's imagination.
These days, just about every Division I team would want freshman Brad Robbins sending punts into the low atmosphere and sophomore Camaron Cheeseman long-snapping the ball as if it were an arrow leaving a bow.
The Cheeseman-to-Robbins combination has been a winner all season for Michigan (8-3) going into a game against Ohio State (9-2) at noon Saturday at Michigan Stadium. Cheeseman also centers for extra points and field-goal attempts. Robbins is averaging 40.9 yards on 51 punts, with 20 kicks being fair caught, 16 landing inside the 20-yard line and none having been blocked.
Robbins was an unknown until the summer before his senior year, when his father took him to a punting camp. He was transferring to Westerville South from Worthington Christian.
“Brad played baseball for the Columbus Cobras travel team and did not go to a lot of the performance camps, so I took him to a national kicking camp in Xenia," Eric Robbins said. “It was a walk-up registration, and at the noon break the director said, ‘Where have you been?’ "
It wasn’t long until Robbins’ reputation spread. On July 30, Nevada coach Brian Polian offered him a scholarship sight unseen based on information from a kicking service.
That offer dissolved after Polian was fired, but it was apparent Robbins could do a lot better than Nevada after what he did during the Kohl’s kicking camp on Jan. 12 in Atlanta.
“Brad dominated with 80 punters there," Eric Robbins said. “Jamie Kohl came up and said, ‘Who the heck are you?’ Brad had five punts with hang times of more than five seconds and won the competition. They kept the cameras rolling and he kicked another five balls that hung for more than five seconds."
One after another, Big Ten schools starting calling Robbins. Michigan was in the mix, but didn’t have a scholarship for Robbins until a middle guard reneged on his commitment and signed with Alabama on national letter of intent day.
Eric and wife Kristi can’t believe they are preparing to watch their son play for Michigan in The Game. Both graduated from Ohio State.
“I was grabbing my heart for a minute when Brad committed to Michigan," Kristi Robbins said. “Brad was so level-headed through all the recruiting. It has been a whirlwind this year. We’re just so grateful that Brad is at a place where everything is in place with academics, the people and this opportunity."
Cheeseman had made up his mind to quit football and concentrate on baseball going into his junior year at Gahanna. First-year coach Bruce Ward talked him into giving football another chance.
“Then he said he wanted to concentrate on long-snapping, and we said, sure, go ahead," Ward said. “He kept getting better and better. Cheeseman is self-made and has worked so hard at it. He was so determined that he became a four- and five-star recruit. I’ll tell you what he did, and that was to bet on the best person. That person was himself."
Ward said Cheeseman was so accurate that he knocked a Gatorade bottle off a teammate’s head with a snap.
“My wife and I took Camaron to a lot of long-snapping camps, and by the time he was a senior he was No. 7 on Kohl’s list," Marty Cheeseman said.
Cheeseman ranked among the top three long-snappers at a national camp in Wisconsin and played in the Semper Fi All-American Bowl in California after his senior season.
“Around Christmas, Michigan called asking for Camaron’s transcripts, and we just couldn’t believe it," Marty Cheeseman said. “Before that, Camaron wanted to go to Central Michigan. Then Jim Harbaugh called and we’re all thinking, ‘Wow, this is the Big Ten.’ "
Cheeseman won the starting job during spring camp. He became the odds-on favorite after the starter transferred to Vanderbilt.
“Camaron is a preferred walk-on and we’re hoping for that scholarship," Marty Cheeseman said. “He keeps getting better, and he’s 6-5, 240 pounds. He’s not just a long-snapper. He’s athletic."