Robinson Coaching Legend Mike DePue Retiring
Robinson's coach Mike DePue will retire after this season.
Robinson High football head coach Mike DePue has been coaching at the school longer than half the high schools in Hillsbrough County have existed. He's by no means the beginning of Robinson football, but he represents several significant chapters. DePue has been a Robinson Knight football coach for 30 years, and he's been at the helm for 10 of them.
In December, DePue will step down as coach. Athletic officials at the school said his dedication to the team and Robinson High have been evident in his decades-long career.
"He cares a great deal about the kids," athletic director Marcia Monk said.
Said Offensive line coach Shawn Taylor: "He's always available to the team, to players, students, he's here seven days a week."
The family atmosphere has always been there at Robinson High, DePue just epitomized it.
"This would be a small-town school if you didn't know it was Tampa," Taylor said. "Almost every coach on the staff is a Robinson grad, they almost never go outside the school to hire new staff, football or otherwise."
Taylor was quick to point out that even his own department head and half of the teachers in social studies are his former teachers or Robinson grads.
"People come back to teach and coach here, they buy into it," Taylor said. "Openings at Robinson usually only come from promotion, retirement or death."
DePue said he does not know what the long-term future holds for him.
"There's another niche for me out there," DePue said.
DePue mentioned a 30-acre farm he inherited in from his parents in Maine, owning a newspaper, working on a novel.
"Right now, I just want to take some time off and travel," DePue said.
He talked Europe, Maine, even travelling to see some of this former players play in college. With so much invested, it's a bittersweet time for DePue.
"I get melancholy once in a while," DePue said. "But really, I'm excited to move on."
DePue has a reputation as being one of the more salty coaches in the history of Hillsborough County coaches. However, his soft side never ceases to show itself.
"Yeah, he's salty," senior Brooks Lovely said. "But when you get close to him his other side comes out."
Lovely recalled when he tore his ACL this past March. DePue called him up every week just to see how he was doing, not just his knee but how "he" was doing.
"He does care, he just doesn't show it much," Lovely said.
Junior Brandon Peters agrees.
"When we won the Jesuit game, he was speechless," junior Brandon Peters said. "That was the first time I'd ever seen that."
Peters will always keep with him some of the lessons he learned from DePue.
"He showed us to be tough but that it's not silly to show your feelings," Peters said.
DePue has a great deal to do with Robinson being a successful team. He's brought all of his staff on board and given chances to several keys to the team's continued success.
"He game me my start as offensive coordinator," said Rob Burns, offensive coordinator. "We've been building it ever since that first year."
DePue teaches advanced placement and honors history, and claims his classes are, "pretty electric."
The coaches and staff are committed to send DePue out in style. That means on the heels of a Class 5A state championship.
"Things could not have lined up any better for it to happen this year," Taylor said.
Taylor cites having a senior-laden team, having all five starting offensive lineman seniors, even the tight end is a senior.
"The defense could not have started the season any better," Taylor said.
The Robinson defense has scored 12 defensive touchdowns this season, already re-writing the record for Hillsborough County. Taylor also points out that if Robinson goes on to win the district, they will host every playoff game up until the state finals in Orlando.
"It's just the way the playoff brackets lined up this year," Taylor continued.
The Knights are 6-0 so far this year and have already beaten district rival Jesuit. The only serious obstacle the Knights face in attaining that district title is an October 26 game at Lakewood.
Senior rusher Martin Ruiz said DePue helped him stand out on the squad.
"My sophomore year, after Cameron Arnold went down, he put me in and told me I would have to be a team leader," Ruiz said. "Him trusting me to do that really helped build my confidence."