Highway 169 is the most traveled road to Mankato from the Twin Cities.
The pavement curves and rolls up and down hills, crosses the Minnesota River and runs alongside it. Speed limits open through prairies and slow in Jordan and St. Peter.
Preparing for his 11th season in Purple, Brian Robison is the longest-tenured Viking and the most familiar with the trek.
This year's Verizon Vikings Training Camp will be the 52nd and final summer session on campus. The Vikings plan to hold future camps at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, which is scheduled to open in March 2018.
Robison knows that the journey for each of the 10 previous Vikings teams he's played for has started on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato. He and veterans are scheduled to report on July 26. Robison recently shared his thoughts on what happens within a team during a training camp.
"It is something where you cannot really explain it, but going through that process, picking each other up," Robison said. "Even when the next guy is not feeling so great, you pick him up and make sure that you keep him going and vise-versa. There is going to be times out there where you are not always going to feel good, but the guys around you are what keep you going and keep you motivated."
Former Pro Bowl receiver Ahmad Rashad, who will be inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor on Oct. 1, recalled the journeys made by the Vikings at camps from his arrival in Minnesota in 1976.
"To have been able to go to training camp and come together as a team, I don't think people understand what you go through in a training camp because it doesn't happen any place else in life," Rashad said. "You start hating it the first couple of days, but as you start to come together as a team, there's a wonderful feeling that brings you together where you all start to play for one another. You're not playing for yourself. You're playing for the rest of the guys on the team, and this is the sort of city, state or states that they all come together."
Togetherness can help a team overcome adversity and fight through fatigue on the field. The philosophy of camp is to continue to foster that, but there also has been a shift from full-padded two-a-days.
Now, the Vikings undergo gentler walk-through sessions in the morning and comprehensive meetings with film study that are built in around the pad-popping afternoon sessions.
Robison noted the different approach in comparison to what he had heard from past generations of Vikings.
"For those guys, it was much more of a grueling process than it is nowadays," Robison said. "I mean even when I came into the league, we had legit two-a-days. Now you do not have that anymore. In some ways, it is easier. I think it is more of a mental grind than it is a physical grind [like] it used to be."
Robison has started 65 games in a row. He is one of five defensive ends in team history to open at least 50 games in a row, joining Jim Marshall (270), Car Eller (125), Chris Doleman (111) and Jared Allen (96).
Robison also moved into third place all-time for games played by a Vikings defensive end (158), nudging past Doleman (154) and Mark Mullaney (151) last season. He trails only Marshall (270) and Eller (209) in the category and is tied with Henry Thomas for ninth all-time with 56 career sacks.
Adaptability and versatility have been keys for Robison, who has played for three of the Vikings nine head coaches, especially under Head Coach Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson.
Patterson explained to Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall that Robison has "done a great job of buying in to the little tweaks that we've made to his game."
"It's changed his game to go to a whole new level," Patterson said. "He is so much more productive as a run player and pass rusher whether he's rushing inside or outside. He's a tremendous leader on our team and in my room.
"The thing that he's done, he's allowed his team to see his value, not just as a really good football player, but his value in helping get Coach Zimmer's message across to the rest of the team, his value with helping me get my message across to the players in my room."
Patterson said he loves that Robison is a "technician" who "plays the run blocks exactly the way you coach it to be done."
"I spent a lot of time with B-Rob, getting him to figure out who he was as a pass rusher instead of him trying to rush like the guys who were here [earlier] in his career," Patterson said. "Once he figured out who he was and rushed the best way for him, you've seen his sack totals and hits come up."
Robison's camp experiences have evolved over the years, but the goal of helping the Vikings win their first-ever Super Bowl remains the same.