After not hearing their names called during the 2020 NFL Draft, Illinois State All-Americans James Robinson and Luther Kirk did not have to wait long before getting their shots in the NFL as both quickly agreed to undrafted free agent deals that same evening. Robinson will join the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kirk will stay close to home with the Dallas Cowboys.
Robinson posted a stellar performance at the East-West Shrine Bowl, where he accumulated 136 total yards (80 rushing, 56 receiving) and scored the longest touchdown in the history of the prestigious game with a 63-yard rushing score. The consensus first-team All-American picked up honors by the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the AFCA, HERO Sports, The Associated Press, and STATS FCS following a stellar senior campaign for the Redbirds.
The Rockford native started all 15 games at running back for the Redbirds and led the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing yards (1,899), yards per game (126.6) and touchdowns (18). The three-time All-MVFC selection (2017-19) and two-time Walter Payton Award finalist recorded eight 100-plus yard rushing efforts, including a pair of 200-plus yard efforts in the first and second round of the FCS playoffs that included a school-record breaking 297-yard effort in the first-round with at SEMO.
Robinson finished the season ranked second in the FCS in rushing yards and yards per game and sixth in rushing touchdowns. He finished his illustrious career ranked second in Illinois State history in rushing yards (4,444), rushing touchdowns (44), all-purpose yards (5,218), and total touchdowns scored (46).
Kirk was named the Defensive MVP at the 95th East-West Shrine Bowl, after finishing with two tackles and an interception. The Garland, Texas, native was an AFCA FCS Coaches’ and HERO Sports FCS All-America First-Team selection and was a second-team All-America selection by STATS FCS. He also earned Associated Press FCS All-America Third Team honors.
A two-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference First-Team selection at safety, Kirk served as a team captain and led the team with 89 tackles on the season, with 64 solo stops, and finished the year with six pass breakups, three sacks, four tackles-for-loss, and a forced fumble. He had a career-high 10 tackles and two pass breakups against ninth-ranked UNI and posted TFLs in back-to-back wins over fourth-ranked South Dakota State and Missouri State. Kirk recorded the game-winning sack in the thrilling win over the Bears and later finished with five tackles and a sack in the first-round FCS playoff win at Southeast Missouri.