Mahki Robinson-Washington spent last season playing middle linebacker for the Albemarle football team.
The 6-foot, 225-pound junior moved to the other side of the ball this fall and the transition has been seamless. Robinson-Washington has quickly become the featured back in Coach Brandon Isaiah’s offense.
Robinson-Washington looked right at home in his new role last Friday after a career performance against rival Charlottesville. The first-year running back churned out a career-high 242 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns to garner Schewels Athlete of the Week honors.
“My performance last week was good, and I felt like I played well,” Robinson-Washington said. “My [offensive] line helped me out last game, so I really can’t say it was me who was successful, because it was all of us that made the hole and I hit it and let my legs do the rest.”
With the Patriots trailing 26-21 early in the fourth quarter, Isaiah turned to Robinson-Washington for a big play. The senior turned a simple off-tackle play into a 61-yard touchdown run where he left defenders in his dust to extend the Patriots’ winning streak to three in a row.
“This team has so much talent, but we sometime struggle to execute, or we lose focus,’ Robinson-Washington said. “My [role] in this offense is as a physical power back, because we are a downhill running team that loves to run the ball down a team’s throat. My team knows that it is important to establish the run game early so it can open up other [aspects of our offense] for my teammates.”
Isaiah recognized Robinson-Washington’s talent early on and couldn’t be happier with his results on the gridiron this season.
“Mahki is a young man who has come through the program and progressively worked to mature and become a great player,” Isaiah said. “He made a commitment this summer to be a part of the summer program at VMI. I feel that the program changed him and [turned] on a switch and made Mahki more focused.”
Robinson-Washington enjoys history and is a member of the 100 Black Men program and the American Fusion Club at Albemarle. He said both programs allow him to grow as a person.
“The American Fusion Club is a class that is more college-like, but you do more project-based work,” he said. “I like it because it gives students opportunities to use their creativity. My role in that class is to work hard and be a leader.”
Isaiah said the results are evident.
“We have seen a big increase in his ‘want to succeed’ and become a leader for this team,” Isaiah said. “He is working every day to lead and be a dominant player. He is a great kid to be around. He is honest and is a star student.”
Robinson-Washington started playing football at the age of 9 in his neighborhood and quickly developed a passion for the game.
“The older kids would always tell me that I was good and that I should try out for a team,” he said. “I also played a little basketball growing up, but I always loved football more. I love the physical and mental aspects of the game, and most of all, the brotherhood of the game. If I didn’t play football, I don’t think I would be the person I am today.”
Growing up, he patterned his game after Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch. Both players have a similar build and don’t shy away from contact.
“I love to truck anything that is in front of me,” Robinson-Washington said. “I will try to run you over before I think about making a juke on a defender.”
That physicality stems from his time playing middle linebacker. Assistant coach Chris Byers has worked with him to develop a more complete game on the offensive side of the ball.
“The transition actually wasn’t that hard,” Robinson-Washington said. “I played running back growing up and I really have been listening and doing what Coach Byers has been telling me to get better. My mindset when I get the ball is to be patient and when I see a hole, hit it and react off the defender.”
Robinson-Washington said his confidence grew during his performance against Patrick Henry (Roanoke). The junior rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown and felt comfortable in the offense.
“I feel like the light came on when we played Patrick Henry when I completely ran over a defender,” Robinson-Washington said. “I just thought to myself that they can’t hold me.”
The statistics back up that statement. In the past three games, Robinson-Washington has rushed for 470 yards and six touchdowns as Albemarle tries to make a run at a Class 5 Region D playoff berth.
Robinson-Washington likes his role as featured back.
“I like being that person that people are out trying to stop,” he said. “It’s my job to do anything and everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
Robinson-Washington is left-handed and fancies himself as a writer. The next chapter in his season is Friday, when Albemarle faces upstart Fluvanna County. The Patriots will be looking for their fourth win in a row.
“I think the season has gone okay,” he said. “We had a rough start and we are just taking it each game at a time. My expectation for the rest of the season is to run the ball as hard as I can every time coach puts the ball in my hands. I feel my whole team, including the coaching staff, have a great bond with one another and feel as if it’s all coming together.”