So when Hixon praises a pass-catcher, people tend to listen. During his conference call with reporters Thursday morning, it is safe to say ears were wide open when Hixon said the following about Nittany Lion junior Allen Robinson.
“He's definitely gonna play at the next level,” Hixon said. “In all my years of coaching, he's one of the best -- if not the best -- receivers I've had. And I've had some first-rounders and second-rounders over the years.”
Hixon was referring to rounds in the NFL Draft, of course. As an assistant at LSU in 2003, Hixon coached Michael Clayton, who went on to be the 15th overall pick in the 2004 draft.
He said the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Robinson, who was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year after catching a school-record 77 passes for 1,013 yards and 11 scores last season, compared very favorably to Clayton.
“Michael was about 6-3, 210 or 215, the same body type,” Hixon said. “But Allen is more competitive than Michael. He wants to win all the time.”
That competitive streak has led to continued improvement for Robinson, according to Hixon. After the blockbuster breakout season in 2012 (Robinson had only three catches for 29 yards as a true freshman under the previous coaching staff), he registered 14 catches for 262 yards and a pair of touchdowns in PSU's first game this season. This despite missing the first half of the opener against Syracuse due to a disciplinary suspension.
“Allen knows that he's very talented, but he doesn't rest on that,” Hixon said. “He wants to be the best he can be. In all my years of coaching receivers, he is by far the most competitive guy I've been around.
“Now, I've been around a lot of receivers,” he added. “Some don't go as hard in practice as they do in games. But Allen wants to win every single drill, every practice, every game.”
Hixon coached receivers with the Washington Redskins from 2004-2009, and then with the Buffalo Bills from 2010 until joining the PSU staff early in 2012. He knows what it takes to be a pro pass catcher, and has little doubt Robinson fits the mold.
“Everyone sees that Allen Robinson is a great player,” Hixon said. “When the time comes, he's gonna be ready. He has the work ethic, has the ability, has the ball skills and has the physical toughness. He's gonna be a pro player. When he and his family make that decision is up to them.
“I'd like to keep him as long as I can, though.”