All of the hype and excitement to kick off another highly anticipated college football season went completely silent in a matter of seconds. It was more than a sobering start at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.
During the opening kickoff between No. 21 UCF and the Connecticut Huskies, Knights defensive back Aaron Robinson went into make a tackle on Huskies return man Keyion Dixon and hit his head awkwardly before laying seemingly motionless on the field.
ESPN chose not to show the replay, but here it is for those interested:
With the coaches, players and crowd completely stunned, the paramedics and training staff on hand worked on Robinson for nearly 10 minutes. They cut his jersey, took off the helmet and strapped him to a stretcher before taking him off the field to a nearby hospital.
Luckily, Robinson showed signs of movement and gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he exited the field.
UCF Knights head coach Josh Heupel said the redshirt sophomore is expected to be “OK”, but would stay Thursday night at a local hospital for observation.
That’s definitely good news because the first play of basically the entire college football season certainly was a scary moment.
Maybe this is why the NCAA changed kickoff rules before the 2018 in an attempt to make them safer. Returners can now call for a fair catch anywhere inside the 25-yard-line and get the ball placed at the 25, resulting in fewer kickoffs in games. The NFL also made changes to kickoffs with not allowing the coverage unit to get a running start before the kicker boots the ball.
Still, this was incredibly serious.
A 6-foot-1, 193-pound sophomore from Deerfield Beach, Florida, Robinson was making his Central Florida debut after missing all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules. He started his collegiate career with the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he appeared in 13 games as a true freshman, making five tackles, including one tackle for loss.
As for the game, UCF routed UConn, 56-17, to extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 14 games.
The opening kickoff injury was definitely not the way anyone wanted the season would start.