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Olympic lineman Robert Dinkins plays up to potential

By Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/05/20/09/1GU7W.Em.138.jpeg|316
    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Olympic High defensive lineman Robert Dinkins committed to North Carolina as a sophomore, and he's emerged as a team leader this season for the Trojans.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/05/20/09/rwwN.Em.138.jpeg|316
    T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
    Olympic High defensive lineman Robert Dinkins committed to North Carolina as a sophomore, and he's emerged as a team leader this season for the Trojans.

When football player Robert Dinkins enrolled at Olympic High four years ago, he was 14. Then a ninth-grader, Dinkins had the physique of a much older athlete.

“He’s always been so big,” Olympic coach Barry Shuford said. “When he first came to us, you’re thinking ‘Geez, this kid is only 14 years old?’ He looks 25 or 26. But sometimes he acted like a 14-year-old and looked like a 21-year-old and that was the thing with him.”

Everyone expected Dinkins, now 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, to be a leader because he looked older and was so big and strong. Then he received a scholarship offer from North Carolina after his sophomore season. That only heightened the expectations.

Only Dinkins, who will lead his team into Friday’s game at Sweet 16 No. 4 Independence, didn’t want to hear any of it.

“I was a true kid,” said Dinkins, now a senior. “I didn’t care what anybody said. I always had people in my corner telling me all the dos and don’ts. But I was hard-headed. I felt like I knew everything and no one could tell me anything, but I decided to step back and tried out what they were telling me. That made the biggest difference.”

Shortly after Olympic finished the 2012 season – a successful 8-5 run that included a trip to the N.C. 4AA quarterfinals – Shuford said he began noticing that difference.

Dinkins is thickly muscled, especially in his upper body. He has been a weight-room junkie for a while. What got him started? He said he was fat growing up and didn’t like the reflection in the mirror.

“I remember a time when I couldn’t do five push-ups straight,” he said. “In ninth grade, I came into my body a little bit and figured out that football was my road and my passion. I was in the weight room more than anybody working my way up. I now am starting to see the fruits of my labor.”

Dinkins said before his freshman year, his dad bought him a bench to lift weights at home.

His goal was to bench press 225 pounds.

“I remember I got that before freshman year,” he said. “My next wall was 315. My sophomore year at Olympic, I benched 315 and I said, ‘I gotta get better.’ I would see the guys on TV playing college and I wanted to be like that. I knew to get there I had to be strong and fast.”

Building for future

Dinkins’ commitment to strength and fitness showed in his body. He can now bench press nearly 400 pounds. After his junior season, when he listened to advice from friends and family, Dinkins began his future even more seriously.

After an all-conference junior season, which included seven sacks, he started to become the person and the leader everyone envisioned. He didn’t miss workouts or meetings in the offseason. He encouraged teammates more. Shuford said the influences of North Carolina coach Larry Fedora and assistant Gunter Brewer have been good for him. Shuford said they preach to him about being accountable and working hard.

“Robert has just matured a lot,” Shuford said. “He’s a big strong kid who’s finally grown up a little bit and is playing up to his ability.”

Shuford moved Dinkins to nose guard from tackle. Olympic only returned four starters on defense. Playing nose guard means Dinkins probably won’t rack up big statistical numbers. He said that’s OK.

“We saw the change in Robert in the summer, really, with him being more of a leader,” Shuford said. “And moving into the preseason and our first game (a 37-34 win against Myers Park two weeks ago), we moved him to nose guard and he was triple-teamed most of the night. He didn’t complain. He played team football and did a good job. He didn’t make a lot of tackles, but our linebackers did because he had three guys on him.”

Shuford said he expects more of the same Friday night.

“Independence is big and strong,” Shuford said. “They’re a good football team and they’ve got a whole lot more experience than we do. Before (Myers Park), our entire offensive line hadn’t taken a snap in a varsity football game. We’re really young and we don’t have their experience or size or speed. So we have to catch a lot of breaks and try to trick them.”

Shuford plans to move Dinkins around on the line, from inside to outside, to try to prevent the Patriots from attacking him easily. He said he’ll also drop Dinkins back into coverage. Dinkins can run 40 yards in about 4.8 seconds, deceptively quick for a player his size.

Dinkins said he’ll do whatever his team needs.

“To be honest,” he said, “a lot of people think ‘It’s your senior year and you should just go all out.’ I know this year I won’t have all the stats playing nose and that I have to take on double and triple teams every week. But I want to be part of something. I want to leave some sort of legacy here, so people can say, ‘Dink did this.’ … I just want to help out my team any way I can.”

Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr; facebook.com/queencitypreps
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