EAGAN, Minn. — Brian Robison spent the entirety of his 11-season career with the Vikings, missing just three total games while making more than 100 starts in Purple.
He racked up 60.0 career sacks, good for ninth in franchise history, and was a team captain in his final two seasons with the Vikings.
But Robison’s football journey didn’t just include his time in Minnesota. The former defensive end told his gridiron journey from beginning to end Wednesday afternoon during his retirement press conference at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Here are 10 moments that defined Robison’s life in football:
1. The early days
Robison began playing football in full pads at the age of 4 in Splendora, Texas. He recalled a trip back to his hometown a few years ago and seeing what a 4-year-old looked like in a full uniform, with the oversized pads and way-too-big helmet completing the comical uniform.
He played running back and linebacker and was one of the best players on the field from his small town of roughly 2,000 people.
“I still remember going down Tram Road and taking a left and being at the football field,” Robison said of his trip down memory lane. “It brought a lot of memories back.”
2. An eye-opening experience
By the time Robison got to middle school, he was listed as a center and a defensive tackle on the roster, and he later played fullback.
But while Robison thought he was talented enough for success on the field – and at a more athletic position – his father had other ideas. Jimmy Robison took his son to a game on Friday night between North Shore Senior High School and Judson High School, which is located in the town of Converse.
“I remember my dad taking me down there … I think North Shore had five or six guys off of that team that went pro. They were the deal,” Robison said. “After watching that game … I looked at myself and said, ‘You ain’t crap.’ At that point, the work ethic started.
“I told my dad when we left that game that I wanted to work harder than anybody else and be better than anybody else,” added Robison, who said he soon began to put himself through grueling home workouts in the Texas heat.
To celebrate his official retirement from the Vikings view images of Brian Robison's headshots with Minnesota through the years.
3. Varsity as a freshman
The summer before his freshman year of high school, Robison went from 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, to 6-1 and 205 pounds. Coaches wondered if he was new in town because they didn’t recognize him.
Although Robison played the first game of his freshman season on junior varsity, he was quickly moved up to the top team, although it meant a reluctant move to nose tackle.
Robison said he received a clear explanation from his coach.
“He said, ‘Son, we’ve got an All-State center on this team that we’re playing and we ain’t got nobody quick enough to get in the backfield. I need you to shoot a gap and get in the backfield,’” Robison said. “And then he said, ‘By the way, you’re going to be playing in the varsity game.’”
Suddenly, Robison was the most enthusiastic nose tackle around.
“Well, heck yeah, I’ll be your nose tackle,’” said Robison, who had four tackles for loss in the game.
4. An offer from Texas
When it came time for Robison to make his college choice, he was between LSU, Texas, Arkansas and Houston. While in Austin for a track meet, Robison met former Texas coach Mack Brown, who began talking as if he was already on the team.
“My mom finally goes, ‘I have to ask you … are you going to offer Brian,’” Robsion said. “[Brown then said,] ‘Well, Mrs. Robison, I thought you already knew that.’ They offered me.”
Robison committed to Texas a week later, eventually winning a national title and back-to-back Rose Bowls as a Longhorn.
Former Vikings DE Brian Robison visited TCO Performance Center for his retirement press conference and to see old teammates and friends.
5. Welcome to Minnesota
The Vikings traded up in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft to make sure they could select Robison.
While Robison and his wife, Jayme, wondered what life was going to be like up north, they quickly found a home.
Robison spoke fondly of meeting his new neighbors, Nancy and Rich Gilbertson, and the relationships he had made up north.
6. A near-miss in 2009
The 2009 Vikings were loaded, with Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre on the roster, along with potential future Hall of Famers in Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Adrian Peterson.
But Minnesota’s loss in the 2009 NFC Championship in New Orleans made Robison realize an opportunity had been missed.
“We lose it. We didn’t get beat, we lost it,” Robison said. “We had way too many turnovers and mistakes in the game … that was the first real time I was able to sit there and think that was an opportunity that got squandered.
“That team should have brought a Super Bowl championship to the state of Minnesota,” Robison said. “No doubt in my mind, hands down.”
7. Zimmer’s arrival
Robison had 40 career sacks through his first seven seasons, including 25.5 during a three-year span from 2011-2013, on his resume when Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer arrived in 2014.
The veteran defensive end had 20 sacks in his final four years in Minnesota, but was known as the ultimate team player for his selfless attitude and demeanor.
Robison explained how Zimmer helped him grow on the field in different roles.
“I can’t tell you how many times that Coach Zimmer pushed me to my breaking point, but he made me a better player for it physically and mentally, because he brought things out of me that I didn’t even think I could do,” Robison said. “
8. Learning from ’Dre
One of the most emotional moments of Robison’s farewell press conference was when he spoke about Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
Robison recalled the four years the duo spent together, and the lessons he learned on and off the field.
“I will always cherish our time on the field, but I will cherish our time off the field even more,” Robison said. “You taught me things about life, about relationships outside this building, about the change in the world today … you opened my eyes to things I never would have imagined.”
“Thank you … you will always be a part of my life,” Robison added.
View the best images of Vikings defensive lineman Brian Robison throughout his career.