Onlookers had a hunch when Vikings defensive end Brian Robison opened Wednesday’s retirement news conference with a goal to keep it “short and simple” that the first part may have been slightly disingenuous.
Robison was pure “B-Rob” during a nearly hourlong farewell inside TCO Performance Center in Eagan, where he said he wanted to tell his story. He launched into a 34-minute monologue of laughs, tears and memories from his childhood in Splendor, Texas, to his 11-year NFL career in Minnesota, which ended last summer when he was unexpectedly cut by the Vikings.
With a written speech, Robison came as prepared as he did for 173 games in purple and gold. Many thanks were shared face to face, with defensive line coach Andre Patterson and linebacker Chad Greenway among friends and former co-workers in attendance.
“The hardest thing for me to walk away from was the guys,” said Robison, who took two pay cuts to stay with the Vikings. “I knew that was the last time I would actually have that type of brotherhood around me. So, yeah, there were a lot of emotions.”
There were still emotions Wednesday, but Robison said he eventually let go of the resentment of being released. Bonds were never broken, however. After recalling his wife, Jayme, first crying at the thought of living in Minnesota winters when Robison was picked in the 2007 draft, he smiled through his relationships in Minnesota and the highs and lows of memorable Vikings seasons.
An uncommonly long career and the climb, from fourth-round pick to six-year starter, made last year’s departure difficult to swallow for Robison. He delivered a “thanks Rick” to general manager Rick Spielman when asked about his release, then adding “just kidding.”
“The NFL is a business and you have to move past the bitterness,” Robison said. “You have to move past all that and realize the business will never change. If you take it personal, we’re all going to get mad at some point or another.”
Robison, now 36, waited until this offseason to officially retire. He said he could’ve played “two or three” more seasons, but an enticing opportunity didn’t arise, and the Vikings didn’t call. He said he passed on a possible offer from one NFL team.
His career ends with 60 sacks, which ranks fifth in Vikings history (since 1982 when sacks became an official stat). Robison played more games (173) for the Vikings than Paul Krause or Kevin Williams, one Robison’s mentors whom he credited for his early development.
While he didn’t ever have the national shine to make a Pro Bowl, the former University of Texas middle linebacker grew into a stalwart who led a culture that persists within the reigning fourth-ranked Vikings defense.
He also became a game-changing defensive end along the way.
Robison was first a rotational pass rusher in his third NFL season when the Brett Favre-led Vikings lost in overtime of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
“We didn’t get beat. We lost it,” Robison said. “That team should’ve brought a Super Bowl championship to the state of Minnesota. But it just didn’t happen. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Eight years later, Robison was a starter and team captain who led Bible study circles with teammates in his family’s Savage home. The “Minneapolis Miracle” was Robison’s answer to his most memorable game, which marked the peak of a 2017 season featuring 14 wins in Robison’s last year as a starter. He poked fun at Danielle Hunter, whom he helped groom, for taking his job.
“Probably the best football team I’ve been a part of,” Robison said. “From top to bottom, not only with athleticism but our locker room dynamic. We truly were a brotherhood.”
Family time with his wife and two children eventually eased transition into retirement, which is still evolving.
Robison said he’ll stay in front of the camera with a new YouTube series called “Transition Season,” documenting his move from football into fishing, another passion noted whenever he mimed a catch in celebration of a sack. Many of the episodes will be filmed on lakes in Minnesota.
It will at least be entertaining, as Robison always was with the Vikings.
“I tried every single day to make it fun, not only for myself but the guys around me,” Robison said. “Whether that was being DJ White Chocolate or the ’96 questions’ or just saying some of the dumbest stuff you’ve ever heard in my life, I tried to make it fun.”