Giving thanks is nice. Receiving thanks is better.
Vikings defensive lineman Brian Robison will spend most of Thanksgiving Day at Ford Field in Detroit. He can count himself as blessed for surviving in the NFL for more than a decade, and becoming the team’s longest-tenured player. Today, he has reason to be grateful, and others have reason to be grateful to him.
Former Vikings coach Dennis Green started the Vikings Community Tuesday movement in the ’90s, encouraging players to spend a day visiting sick kids or building playgrounds. Since then, all prominent Minnesota sports teams have donated time and money to good works, combining philanthropy with public relations.
This is a good day to thank Robison because he went further. He not only started his own foundation, he and his wife, Jayme, do the grunt work to make the charity work. That requires cold-calling sponsors and celebrities, setting up the fishing tournaments that provide the draw, and running the tournaments.
This year, Robison’s Reel ’Em In Foundation has raised $109,000 for K9s4COPs, which provides canines to law enforcement agencies and schools. He’s already scheduled two fishing tournaments for 2018. The first will be March 29-31 on Lake Sam Rayburn in East Texas; the second will be June 15-17 in Wabasha, Minn.
Robison does good works he doesn’t reveal publicly. With his charitable fishing tournaments, he’s driven to promote a cause that resonated with him when he decided to start his foundation.
“For me, it was about being in a position where I felt like I could help out,” Robison said. “Once myself and my family were in a position where we could give back to others, we felt like that was just the right thing to do.
“Some of the stuff I do I don’t talk about. I don’t put it out there because I do it out of the kindness of my heart, not to get notoriety for it.
“It’s something I’ve really grown to enjoy over the last three or four years, is really just giving back to our communities, to those in need, and trying to impact people in a positive way that really brings a smile to their faces.”
As player, Robison has proved similarly selfless. He produced 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles last season. He was due to make $5.3 million in 2017. The Vikings offered him a deal: They’d extend his contract through 2018 if he would cut his base pay in 2017 to $1.4 million.
Like former teammates Chad Greenway and Jimmy Kleinsasser, Robison prioritized finishing his career as a Viking over chasing free-agent dollars. He accepted the pay cut and a demotion from starting defensive end to backup lineman.
“I always respect those guys, the way they went about their jobs and the way they ended their careers,” Robison said. “I think for me it was important to be here not only for myself but for my family. We’re in a comfortable position. A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into this organization when you’ve been here this long. This is a fan base and a state that deserves a championship, and I want to be a part of that.”
Robison’s decision allowed the Vikings greater financial flexibility and opened a starting job for end Danielle Hunter, and gave coach Mike Zimmer a reserve lineman he could use as an inside pass rusher.
Robison hadn’t missed a game since 2012 before a back ailment kept him off the field against the Rams. He hopes to play Thursday in Detroit in what might be the Vikings’ most important game of the season. A victory would all but ensure a division title; a loss would put the Lions, with their easy schedule ahead, back into contention.
“Each and every year, he’s done more and more to be the leader,” veteran receiver Jarius Wright said. “It’s amazing to see a guy like that, even though he was already in the NFL a long time, grow even bigger in the leadership role.”
Today, let Robison represent the good works that so many local athletes and teams do.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: email@example.com