TSU's Dunker, Robinson Chase NFL Dreams Together


NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  It all started with a can of Copenhagen.

Now, Tennessee State's Jessamen Dunker and Ezra Robinson are ready to take a dip into the NFL.

On Friday, the two players were among 10 former TSU players to take part in the school's Pro Day. It was the latest test for Dunker and Robinson, who've grown closer during the process leading up to the NFL Draft.

"Initially, when we were first on campus, we didn't really talk a lot,'' Robinson said of Dunker. "But we both dip, and he asked me for dip. That's kind of how it started. But over time we've grown closer.

"And through this process we both realized we are headed to the same place, the NFL. That's when we started talking more, and connecting more. … It is really cool. You know their aspirations as well as yours, and know each other. And we're pulling for each other."

Titans general manager Jon Robinson and coach Mike Mularkey were among a large contingent of NFL officials on hand at the indoor practice facility on the TSU campus. They were there to get another look at Dunker, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman, and Robinson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound defensive back.

In addition to Dunker and Robinson, eight other former Tigers went through Pro Day: receiver Ronald Butler, running back Erick Evans, fullback E.J. Junior IV, defensive back David Kamara, lineman Kevin Kenton, receiver Dantwaun Oneal, linebacker Antonio Justice and receiver Chris Sanders-McCollum. Defensive lineman Whitney Richardson from Lane College also went through drills.

"When you can get this many NFL teams on your campus to see your players, it is great,'' TSU coach Rod Reed said. "I think our kids did a great job in workouts. It was a great day all around.

"I'm proud of all the guys. … (Jessamen and Ezra), they have done a good job supporting each other through the whole process. It is really good to see those guys, who didn't work on the same side of the ball all year. The o-line and the DBs don't really work together, but for them to take this journey together is really cool to see."

Dunker and Robinson both transferred to TSU early in their collegiate careers, Dunker from Florida, Robinson from Michigan State.

At TSU, they enjoyed success.

In 2016, they helped TSU finish with a 7-4 mark. Dunker was named to the Associated Press, Hero Sports and Athlon FCS All-America first teams, and he was also was on the All-Ohio Valley Conference first team. Robinson, who had five interceptions and recorded 42 tackles (31 solos), made the Stats FCS All-America second team and All-OVC first team.

Both players were invited to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, where they were roommates, and they were also together at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

"It always feels good to have somebody going through the same thing you are going through,'' Dunker said of Robinson. "You can talk to them about it and ask them advice. Even though we played different positions, it really doesn't matter. I can lean on him, and he has leaned on me."

Dunker, an AAU basketball star as a youngster who just started playing football his junior year in high school, went through position drills, and showed off his feet on Friday. He worked in drills with Titans offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

"I think it went well,'' Dunker said afterward. "I had a plan, and I feel like I executed it."

Robinson, who ran a 4.4 at the combine, went through drills as well.

"I just tried to show how fluid I am, and that I can come out of my breaks fast,'' Robinson said. "I want to show them I have good footwork and speed, things like that."

As Robinson wrapped up Pro Day on Friday, he reflected on his time at TSU, and what's ahead.

He's doing his best not to let the process stress him out.

"Being out here with my teammates for the final time, it was great,'' Robinson said. "Who knows where life is going to take us? I may not be able to see some of these guys ever again, so this is special.

"There's anxiety, but over time I have read a lot and calmed down. One man told me if you worry about the future, it will bring you stress. And if you always worry about the past, it will keep you down. If you focus on the present it will give you peace. I just try and focus on one day at a time."

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