Many people learned Parker Robertson’s name last week, but he’s made himself known to his coaches, teammates and even Deion Sanders well before his game-changing play.
STILLWATER — Parker Robertson made himself known last weekend, but teammates, Mike Gundy and even Deion Sanders knew him well before his game-changing play against West Virginia.
Robertson, a walk-on safety, recovered a muffed punt early in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys trailed 24-20. Robertson ran downfield as a gunner and stopped two feet shy of Mountaineer return man Preston Fox. OSU’s Kale Smith hurled the Mountaineer running alongside him into Fox creating a fumble, which Robertson pounced on.
“(Smith) knew what he was doing,” Robertson said. “We’re coached to do that if the fliers go down there and get close to the returner, we’re told to throw them into the returner because it’s not a penalty against us, so he did his job. I was at the right place at the right time and the ball bounced into my hands.”
The turnover set up a 16-yard touchdown run from Ollie Gordon, one of OSU’s four fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“It was a big momentum shift,” Robertson said. “We needed it.”
Pro Football Focus ranks OSU the No. 3 team in the nation on special teams, tied with Texas. Cornerback Korie Black, who blocked two kicks in a win against Central Arkansas to open the season, said the success is created because players like Robertson are willing to commit.
“I think coach really got us all in that mindset,” Black said. “If anyone is needed on special teams just look at it as more of an opportunity I get to help my team. Parker really embodies that. If we need him for anything, offense, defense, he’s the most reliable, so that’s what we love about him.”
That’s what his Dallas Christian School coach Mike Wheeler remembers about Robertson, too. Robertson played safety, receiver and gunner and returner on special teams in high school.
One of the things that made Robertson great was his football mind and awareness. He was the player directing his teammates around a complex 3-3-5 defensive scheme.
“He was the guy that got our secondary lined up, he could tell everybody what to do, where to go, where they should be in this formation, that formation, what coverage we’re in,” Wheeler said. “And we haven’t had a kid like that since Parker has been gone. It’s a credit to how smart he was as a player, not only as a football player, he’s just real smart. He understands things real well.”
At OSU this season, Robertson has played primarily on special teams, but got four snaps as a safety against Iowa State.
“He’s been awesome this year,” Gundy said. “I mean, he’s on all the units of special teams and he’s a guy you can put in and do anything.”
Robertson played a little basketball and ran track in high school. His athleticism came on display in a game his senior year against Trinity Christian-Cedar Hill, with Deion Sanders the offensive coordinator on the other sideline.
Robertson lined up in the slot and motioned left to take a jet sweep handoff. His downfield receiver and running back held their blocks, and when Robertson turned upfield on his way to a 46-yard touchdown, five Trinity Tigers were in pursuit.
Robertson isn’t a huge player now, standing 5 feet, 11 inches tall, but he was really undersized until his junior year of high school, Wheeler said. He picked up some college offers, but mostly from Division II schools.
Robertson’s goal was always to play college football at the highest level. So he came to OSU as a preferred walk on.
“People said, ‘I don’t know if he’s going to make it, he’s not big enough,’ but Parker is just one of those kids who is going to work his tail off to find a place to be on the field and be a contributor,” Wheeler said. “And as a coach we knew that we would eventually make it there.”