When Vikings defensive end Brian Robison walks into a room, his large frame is hard to ignore.
When he takes a football field? He’s impossible to ignore.
At 6’3”, 265 pounds, Robison is entering his sixth season for Minnesota. He delivered a breakout season in 2011, recording 27 solo tackles, 17 assists and eight sacks, and his 54 pressures ranked him No. 11 overall among 4-3 defensive ends.
According to the Daily Norseman blog, “In 385 snaps run defending, Robison missed just a pair of tackles, posted very similar numbers to Allen, and earned a positive PFF grade over the season, despite the Vikings’ defense feeling the loss of Pat Williams in the interior.”
Growing up in the football state of Texas, Robison doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t playing the sport. “I’ve been playing football since I was probably four years old,” he said, smiling. “Full contact—it was what we did.”
Robison knows he wouldn’t be where he is today had his family not been behind him 100 percent along the way. A typical blue-collar family, the Robisons bought Brian whatever he needed to help him pursue his goals in football. “Sometimes I put them in a bind,” he admitted, “but they were always supportive in doing it for me, knowing that—if I worked hard enough—hopefully things would work out. They’ve always been a huge support for me.”
Robison’s hard work—and family support—paid off, and he found himself entering the 2007 NFL Draft after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. The 22-year-old was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings at No. 102 overall, a pick he feels was a bit low. Robison explained that, entering the draft, people hadn’t fully seen the way he knew he could play:
“I was more what the typical left end is in the NFL—the ‘rush stop defensive end’ […]. Even though I got to the league, I got labeled as a pass-rusher type mentality instead of someone who could stop the run.”
Despite going later than he expected, Robison knew he was in the right place. “Everything works out for a reason. If everything was easy, I probably wouldn’t be the player I am today.” The Vikings saw the young end’s potential, and Robison fit in as an integral part of Minnesota’s defense from Day 1.
Since entering the league, Robison continues to be an impact player for the Vikings, and he’s excited to see what the future holds for the franchise as a whole. As Minnesota fans know, GM Rick Spielman has made some unexpected moves over the offseason in transitioning some of the seasoned veterans out, the most recent being kicker Ryan Longwell.
When asked to comment on the evolving roster, Robison expressed confidence in the coaching staff, even though it’s not always easy to see friends and teammates move on. “Guys like Longwell get cut; guys that you expect to make the team just aren’t making it,” he said. “But the only way to build depth is to bring in younger players, let them run the system for a couple of years—let them get some game time as opposed to being on the sidelines watching all the time.”
Matt Kalil is just one of those new, young players joining the Vikings this season. What is Robison’s take on the rookie?
“[Kalil] automatically upgrades our offensive line,” he commented, asserting that the USC alum replaces two spots—left tackle and offensive guard—and better prepares Minnesota’s O-Line to protect Ponder this season.
Robison’s belief in the coaches’ vision moving forward is even supported by the recent bill signed by Governor Dayton. The new deal provides plans for a new stadium, ensuring that the Vikings will stay where they belong—in Minnesota.
Several members of the Vikings roster (including Robison) followed the lengthy process for months and showed their support for the bill to be passed. Although the ironing of details and eventual construction will take several years to complete, Robison expressed excitement about the deal—regardless of whether or not he’s with the team when it all comes to fruition. “I think it’s something that needed to be done for the state of Minnesota, and not only for the Vikings. With our economy being the way it is now, this is something that will create jobs for so many people.”
In discussing the positives a new stadium will bring to Minnesota, Robison reflected his general attitude and intentionality about keeping the game of football in perspective. Football happens to be his way of life, a means to support his family, and everyone deserves that same opportunity. This mindset further presents itself in light of the recent Bountygate scandal and various suspensions of New Orleans players and staff:
“When things like that happen, it turns into an issue of no longer just trying to win games; when you’re trying to hurt people, you’re messing with their livelihood […]. You take shots like that at a guy, you could possibly end his career, and you’re looking at repercussions down the road.”
While he certainly involves himself heavily in the football world, it’s impossible to define the Texan by his jersey number alone.
Off the field, Robison spends time with his family, hangs out with teammates…
…and watches American Idol, of course.
“You just had to bring that up, didn’t you?” He laughed when the topic of the popular reality show came up. Although he smiles and admits to watching “all those singing shows”—The Voice, X Factor, etc.—Robison says he’s been tracking with Idol for years.
He doesn’t stop listening to the artists after they compete, either. When asked which Idol contestants have made their way onto his iPod, Robison thumbed through a mental list: “I have Brooke White on there, I have Daughtry, I have Carrie Underwood, I have Kelly Clarkson, I have Haley Reinhart—I mean, I could go on.”
So who does Robison have picked to win it all this season?
“I don’t think anyone can hold a candle to Jessica Sanchez,” he said. “Just listening to her voice, I absolutely think she’s the best.”
If Robison seems pretty confident with his choice, he has good reason. “You can ask my wife to confirm this,” he said, “but I did call the winner for The Voice this year.”
When he’s not picking the next big musical artist, Robison likes to hang out with teammates during the season. What do a bunch of football players do when they’re not playing a game or at practice?
Video games, of course.
“A big thing we talk about in the locker room is Call of Duty,” Robison said. “Everybody likes Call of Duty.” From having weekly gaming nights (complete with 5-6 TVs and Playstations) to watching a big fight over the weekend to getting together for meals, there’s never a dull moment between roster buddies.
When it comes to the “class clown” award for most fun on the team, one guy takes the cake.
“The very confident side of myself wants to say me,” Robison said, laughing. “But, I think Jared [Allen] is one of those guys that’s the same way in the locker room that he is outside of it—he’s just a fun guy to hang around with. Kevin [Williams] is a great guy, too—he’s really mellow in the locker room, he’s mellow at the house, but every once in awhile he just says something that makes you laugh, because you don’t expect it out of him. Those guys are fun to hang out with.”
When not with his teammates, Robison can’t get enough time with his family. If asked about something he’s most proud of, Robison won’t give his tackle totals or stat line. Instead, he’ll tell you all about his baby daughter Madeline. According to the 29-year-old, being a first-time dad completely changed the way he thinks about things.
“I’m always thinking about my little girl,” he said, smiling. “She’s definitely become my world.” While Robison used to consider football one of his top priorities, there’s no question in his mind now where it falls in relationship to other things in his life. While the game certainly holds importance, faith and family take precedence.
“If anything happened with [my family], there’s not a hesitation in my mind that football comes second. People don’t realize that when you weigh your family against football—there’s no comparison.”
And future suitors for Madeline, beware. An NFL defensive end won’t be letting his baby girl go too easily.
“I’m a pretty good shot with a shotgun,” Robison assured me. “And I do like to fish. I’ll take him out fishing and maybe just throw him overboard—see if he can swim.”
He leans back in his chair calmly.
Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College and an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to edit and write for BleacherReport.com and on her blog Making the Call in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.