Zoning laws were the only thing that kept Anthony Robinson from donning the Little Rock Central black and gold as a player.
He spent most Friday nights as a kid sitting in Quigley Stadium, dreaming of one day helping Central capture yet another football state championship.
He was a sophomore at rival Little Rock Hall when Central won its last state title in 2004.
Monday night, Robinson was welcomed with open arms by Central alumni hoping to meet the man they believe will bring the program back to the height of its powers.
"It's a full circle moment for me," Robinson said. "Being a graduate of the Little Rock School District and having the honor today to come back and coach a high school football team where I'm from -- I mean, how great is that?"
Parents, friends, administrators and prospective players trickled into Central's Boone-Fitzpatrick Fieldhouse on Monday to meet Robinson, who was named the head football coach May 11 by the Little Rock School District Board.
Robinson joins Central after three seasons as Conway's wide receiver coach and special teams coordinator. Before that, he spent time as an assistant for Magnolia, Searcy and Lancaster, Texas.
He succeeds George Shelton, who retired after the Tigers' 0-10 season in 2022.
Robinson walked on at Arkansas State University after his time at Hall, playing wide receiver for Steve Roberts. Eventually he earned a scholarship and named a team captain for his junior and senior seasons.
He said it was his time at ASU, and a conversation with wide receivers coach Tyler Siskey, that led him to pursue coaching.
"Ever since then, [Siskey has] lit that fire in me to coach," Robinson said. "I just said, why not? If I can impact people, influence them to be better than what they are, why wouldn't I do it?
He also said being a team captain at ASU in 2009 and 2010 prepared him to step into a position of leadership.
"I think some of the same qualities that go into being a good football coach or a good coach in general are the same qualities that coaches see in team captains," he said
Robinson played in the last official Bell Bowl between Central and Hall, a 24-7 Tigers win to close out the 2005 regular season. The teams played during the 2020 season but have not played since.
With Central in Class 7A and Hall in Class 4A, a renewal of the famed series would have to be in the nonconference schedule. But Robinson said it's something he hopes to see brought back in any form.
"If we can get that done, I would love to get that done," Robinson said. "It was such an honor to play in the Bell Bowl games back in the day. If we can get something like that going again, that'd be outstanding."
The job at Central comes with its challenges. The Tigers have had three winning seasons in their past 16 and one in the past nine. Losing players to nearby schools or having them drop out of football entirely has become an issue over time. Robinson said addressing those issues is at the top of his to-do list.
"The first thing is to build a fence around the school district," Robinson said. "There are a lot of kids going outside of the school district to play ball because they feel they have to in order to get a college scholarship. And then the other thing is to build a culture and instill a pride around campus and get the kids in the hallways fired up about participating again. There's a lot of guys that are not just not participating in football but any extracurricular activities."
Despite the obstacles he faces, Robinson said there's a foundation to build upon going forward.
"What really excites me is the core group of guys we have," Robinson said. "You can see the burning desire to win. You can see that they really are willing to put in the work to be successful. And if we can get more guys like that to come around and be around those guys, I think the sky's the limit."
Central is scheduled to open its 2023 football schedule on Aug. 25 at Quigley Stadium against Little Rock Christian.