Michael Robinson, Seattle Seahawks

Mike Rob with his youngest daughter, posted on his twitter account @RealMikeRob

Michael Robinson, fullback for the Seattle Seahawks often found clearing the field in front of Beastmode Marshawn Lynch, is one of my favorite players in the game. Robinson has been out of practice for several days, and did not travel with the team to play in the preseason game in Green Bay. Coach Pete Carroll has said that Robinson has been ill, and that’s why he’s out. I am reluctant to wish anyone ill, but I really hope that’s the case. I worry because an alternate possibility is that at about the same time the Seahawks traded  another of my favorite players, John Moffitt, they may have had a similar discussion with Robinson.

It has to happen at some point. Robinson has been in the league for seven years – four with the San Francisco 49ers, and the last three with the Seahawks. In the NFL at large, Robinson might be considered at mid-career. As Seahawks players go, Robinson is pretty old; there are only three players on the current 90-man roster older than he is. On many teams, age and experience would be considered an edge; Seahawks Coach Carroll is known for giving everyone an equal shot to compete, rookies right alongside league legends. With the stunning success of Coach Carroll and General Manager John Schneider in recruiting and player development, the Seahawks have tremendous depth at almost every position, with lots of young, very talented players ready to step up. There are 90 hungry, talented young men competing for 53 jobs. Whether or not it’s this year, at some point, Robinson will be leaving the team – almost certainly before he and the Seahawk fans are ready.

Some fans and sports bloggers have already dissected the possibility that Robinson may not make the cut this year. As a fan of these young men, not just as players, I hope it’s not this year. Mike Robinson brings so much to the team beyond his play-making ability.

Robinson is a leader on the team. His teammates respect him, electing him as one of the team captains. Robinson has represented the Seahawks on the NFL Players Association Board of Player Representatives. He exemplifies the respect, humility and responsibility that young players need to see modeled successfully. When Bruce Irvin was suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs, the fifth Seahawks player suspended within a short period of time, Robinson was key in setting up a players-only meeting to discuss the issue. The senior players counseled the younger ones, and helped shape a commitment among all the players to be more accountable for their behavior, and to live more responsibly.

Robinson is an alumnus of Penn State, where he played football under Coach Joe Paterno. Robinson was deeply affected by the allegations of child abuse at the University by Jerry Sandusky, and the relationship of Paterno to the events. During the controversy, Robinson walked a razor thin line, being respectful of the victims of the crime but also being true to the positive influence that Paterno had had on his life and the lives of so many other young men who had played football at the University. When a few months later, Paterno passed away as a result of complications from cancer, Robinson spoke at his funeral.

But it’s not all seriousness with Robinson. He also brings the players to the fans by way of the Real Rob Report. Periodically, Robinson brings his video camera inside the locker room, the team charter, the bus, the equipment manager’s office, or the practice field and interviews the players in an informal format. He has captured dance contests between players, impromptu rap lines, speculation and investigation of Russell Wilson as a robot, and presents an ongoing attempt to get famously camera-shy Marshawn Lynch on camera in a segment called “Messing with Marshawn”. The Real Rob Report has garnered a steady following among fans, and has contributed to the fan loyalty the 12thman has for the Seahawks.

On the field, in addition to being responsible for mere mortal fullback plays, Robinson serves as the eyes of and lead blocker for the team’s star running back, Marshawn Lynch. The two have a chemistry that is undeniable, and delightful to watch, as in the NFL “Turning Point” production.

Another Seahawk fan recently posted on twitter that he didn’t understand why 12thman fans would say they were “sad” to see Moffitt to go; in his opinion, to say you were sad was over exaggerated. Although he agreed with me that wanting a winning team and wanting players with personalities (!) were not mutually exclusive, he clearly came down on the side of wanting a winning team, and apparently couldn’t understand someone who would appreciate the players for off-the-field reasons.

Mike Rob is 30 years old. My daughter, my baby girl, is 29. My attitude toward the Seahawks players took a dramatic turn away from interchangeable-pieces-in-a-quest-for-a-Lombardi-trophy when I started following them on twitter and began to realize how many of these young men are younger than my daughter. A lot younger. She is brilliant, financially independent, resourceful, and generally squared away. But I can’t imagine seeing her suffer the kind of unrelenting pressure faced by NFL players: the perpetual need to perform at world-class standards and be better than the next guy; the spotlight; the injuries; the obsessed fans and the sometimes unbelievably cruel and hateful fans; and the uncertainty of a career and livelihood cut short whether by injury or contract action. I feel very protective of these young men, and yes, sad when they are no longer on the roster.

Sad as I will be on whatever day it is that the Seahawks announce he will no longer be part of the team, I can’t help but be excited for Robinson’s future. He has expressed interest in and laid the groundwork for two post-football career paths. One would be in broadcasting, following on his Real Rob Report production experience. The other would be coaching, under ideal conditions at his beloved alma mater, Penn State. I would be selfishly happy if he pursues broadcasting, because it would be great to continue to have a chance to enjoy seeing him involved in the sport that he loves and knows so well. But the best outcome would be if he goes into coaching. What a magnificent example of leadership he would make for the young men he would coach!

So, Mike Rob, I’ll be sad with you when the day comes and give you time to grieve. But then I’ll be watching to see whether you’ll be taking the broadcast booth by storm, or training up young athletes to be responsible, respectful, outstanding football players! Either way, I have no doubt you will be as great as you are as a fullback with the Seahawks!

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