Madison Southern senior Britten Robinson knew that it was going to be a tough road if he hoped to fulfill his goal of playing baseball at the Division I level.
He would have to out-work and out-hustle his competitors.
Standing at 5-foot-8, Robinson said he knew that he wouldn't be taken very seriously if he didn't give coaches and college recruiters something to notice.
So the natural competitor spent much of his youth proving his naysayers wrong -- earning starting spots on both the Southern baseball and basketball teams and making history along the way.
Last week, Robinson became the first Madison Southern baseball player to commit to a Division I school when he signed to play for East Tennessee State University in a ceremony in Berea.
"I've always been told that I'm too short to play, any sport, really. It wouldn't have mattered what I wanted to play -- everyone would always tell me that I'm too short," the senior shortstop recalled.
Robinson said, instead of giving up, he used that as fuel to succeed anyway.
"It's what drives me to want to be better than everybody. It's been that way my whole life," the senior said. "It started when I was young and in T-ball and it has only grown from there."
That drive has led Robinson to some impressive feats.
As a freshman, he was second on the team in batting average and led Southern in extra base hits.
After a strong start to his high school career, Robinson started to entertain the thought of playing college baseball.
So he asked Madison Southern baseball coach and then, assistant coach, Jayson Langfels about it.
"He was pretty eager to develop. He was always picking my brain about the next level and things like that. He was already so advanced for his age. After his freshman year, I remember having a conversation with him over text messages and he point-blank asked me if I thought if he could play at the next level," Langfels recalled.
The coach knew Robinson wouldn't like the answer.
"I remember thinking, 'What's going to happen when I tell him that I don't think he's ready and here is a list of things you have to do to get better,'" Langfels said.
Robinson took the news in stride and replied with a simple, "yes, sir."
"I trusted him and his advice," the senior said of the exchange. "Langfels said I needed to work on some things or I wouldn't make it. That pushed me towards wanting to play more and be even better."
Robinson returned his sophomore year and set the school's all-time single-season batting average record after he hit .490.
"It was my breakout year," the senior explained. "I started getting offers from lots of colleges and it was really stressful figuring out where I wanted to go. I thought it was the best thing ever because before, I didn't even think and I would ever get a chance."
After deciding to stick closer to home, Robinson said he knew he wanted to continue his baseball career at East Tennessee State, where he plans to major in business finance.
"I knew I wanted to go out-of-state and when East Tennessee offered me, before I even stepped on campus, I knew that was exactly where I wanted to go. The facilities are so nice and the town is exactly like Berea. It's like a home away from home," Robinson said.
During his junior year, Robinson was determined to step up his play and continue to develop
However, a torn quad would sideline him for much of the season.
"I came in thinking I was just going to keep getting better. There was a game in March against Western Hills and I felt my quad pop. I figured it was a cramp and kept playing on it. It got to the point where I couldn't run, we went to the doctors and figured out that I had a torn quad. I missed the rest of the season except for two games. It took a toll on me. I felt out of shape and out of whack. Last year wasn't my best year," Robinson explained.
Still, the infielder struck out five times last season in a 100 at-bats.
He is also the career doubles leader and has played over 91 games at Madison Southern and an additional 150 games in summer baseball.
However, despite becoming his school's first Division I baseball player, Robinson has more history to make his final season at Southern.
The senior is on pace to become the schools all-time hits leader.
His basketball coach, Austin Newton, does not doubt Robinson will make it.
"He is a competitor…He's one of those that he hates to lose more than he loves to win. You don't find those guys like that anymore," Newton said. "He reminds me of myself. Being undersized your entire life, people like to tell you that you can't do stuff. That was my drive and I think that is his drive… Britten and I are living proof that if you are 5-foot-8 and under you can still do those things. If you have a goal in mind and if you try hard enough and work hard enough you can achieve those goals."
Robison said his competitive nature comes from his family -- mostly his dad and his grandfathers.
"We can be decorating the Christmas tree and make that a competition -- see who can decorate the fastest," Robinson said with a shrug.
His competitive nature also stems from a desire to be the best for his teammates.
"When I don't play at my full potential, I feel like I let my team down. If I don't feel like I'm competing at the best I can, I feel like I let my teammates down. I want to be the best for them," Robinson said.
The senior said some of his favorite memories from basketball and baseball are being a part of the team's big wins.
"I was never taken serious in basketball, before Newton. The best memory I've had is when he took me out of the Somerset game because I wasn't playing well. I asked to be taken out, because I knew it too. Our point guard, Walt Smith, got hurt or fouled out and coach looked at the bench and I said, 'I got this.' He ended up listening to me and I was able to come out and get us the points we needed to win. It felt so good to be there for my team like that," Robinson recalled.
The senior said his favorite baseball memory was when, against all odds, the Eagles went to Florida and won five games in a row against favored Lexington schools.
"My sophomore year we beat a Lexington school that thought they shouldn't even play us because we weren't good. We went and we won five games in a row, which is rare for a school in Kentucky," Robinson explained.
What started as a way to just continue his friendships when he was young and prove others wrong has blossomed into a passion with no end in sight.
"I just liked playing with my friends. I never wanted to stop playing with them. Then, I wanted to be the best. I'll never stop working for it and I still wont as long as I continue to play," Robinson said.