Corey Robinson was one of North Carolina’s top blocking prospects back in 2009 at Havelock High School. The 6-foot-7, 315-pounder earned a spot on the Shrine Bowl all-star squad, spent three years as a starter at South Carolina and is now entering his fourth season in the NFL, having just last week been traded by the Detroit Lions to the Carolina Panthers.
Caleb King was an assistant coach at Havelock High during Robinson’s formative years there. Now in his second year as the Rams’ head coach, King believes he has another player developing with potential similar to Robinson.
And it’s East Carolina’s good fortune that that player has already made a verbal commitment to play for the Pirates.
Senior Nishad Strother became the second offensive lineman to join ECU’s football recruiting Class of 2019 on June 26, just hours after receiving his first Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer from the Pirates. The 6-3, 285-pounder earned the offer after a strong showing at ECU’s annual Big Man Camp where he was named MVP.
“East Carolina [coaches] generally drop by during the winter time, and anytime you see someone with his size you’re going to keep an eye on him,” King said when asked about Strother’s recruitment. “Then he went to camp after being in the weight room all winter and had improved his strength. He was the lineman MVP of the camp and that got him his offer.
“He decided on ECU because he loves the idea of being a hometown hero. He wants to go there and play in front of his mom and dad every game.”
Strother’s older brother, Omar, actually played with Robinson as a 6-2, 195-pound wide receiver on the 2009 Rams’ squad that finished 13-2. It would be six years later, just as King was leaving Havelock for a two-year stint at head coach at East Carteret, that Nishad arrived on the scene.
“Nishad had incredible footwork for someone his size, even at that stage,” King said.
Strother would spend his freshman year on the Havelock junior varsity before landing a roster spot on the 2016 varsity team. As a reserve defensive and offensive lineman, he appeared in six games as the Rams went 13-2 and reached the state 3-A semifinals.
The breakthrough for Strother occurred last season when, as a starter at offensive left tackle, he helped Havelock average 48.6 points and more than 400 yards of total offense per game on the way to the state 3-A finals. The Rams suffered a 28-14 loss against Charlotte Catholic in the title game to finish 14-2.
But it’s been Strother’s play this season in a 3-0 start for Havelock that has really impressed King.
“He has been unbelievable so far this season,” King said. “His effort has been unbelievable on each play. He’s running downfield, engaging people and staying in the fight.
“He really developed himself in the offseason. He committed himself to the weight room and added 100 pounds to every single lift this offseason. His bench press is over 315 pounds and he’s over 280 on the power clean. He’s done a great job in the weight room and that’s translating to the field.”
As an example, King detailed a play in the season opener against West Craven in which Strother threw a key block to spring quarterback and Tennessee commit Anthony Harris for a touchdown in the 48-20 victory.
“Anthony was scrambling around running down field, and Nishad takes an angle to get down there and throw a block for him,” King said. “That showed his agility and desire because he never quit on the play.”
Which brings us back to the comparison with Robinson.
“He’s a lot like Corey,” King adds. “He’s just one of those guys who is big, and the more and more he gets in the weight room the better he gets. Corey went to South Carolina and then to the [Detroit] Lions and now with the Panthers. Nishad is kind of like him. He’s a big guy with incredible feet who moves like a little guy.”
Strother, who also competes in lacrosse at Havelock, has been recruited to play either guard or center by the Pirates. He’s one of two offensive line prospects currently in the ECU recruiting class along with tackle Jeff Woods from Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville.