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Brian Robison: 'Whatever It Takes'

The voice coming behind the visor shouted, "Whatever it takes!"

There were a few other inspirational quotes yelled by Brian Robison in the tunnel right before Vikings defensive linemen took the field, but that phrase is more than a mantra.

It's a style of play, sense of purpose and way of life boldly demonstrated by the nine-year veteran defensive end. Robison also has answered the bell when the Vikings have slid him to defensive tackle or asked him to line up in a two-point stance in Head Coach Mike Zimmer's multifaceted scheme.

What do the words mean to the speaker?

"I think for me, it's always been about winning," Robison said. "A lot of times I put my personal statistics and things like that aside because I'm a guy that wants to win ball games. I want to win a Super Bowl, and I want to do it in Minnesota, so I'm going to do whatever it takes in order to do that, whether it be me standing up at linebacker sometimes, kicking down to defensive tackle, rushing on the edge.

"It doesn't matter what it has to be, I'm going to do whatever it takes in order for us to win ball games," Robison reiterated.

The Vikings enter their game with the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football in position to earn their first postseason berth since 2012. Minnesota might in the playoffs even before kickoff, but also has a shot at the NFC North title.

Robison's blend of blue collar work ethic, underrated athleticism and willingness to adapt to use his tools and talents in different ways the past two seasons has been valued by Zimmer, defensive line coach Andre Patterson, defensive line assistant Robert Rodriguez and teammates.

"He was willing to change his style of play to what we wanted to do once we came in here," Patterson said. "He embraced it and has done a good job with it, even though last season he took some heat from the media because what they see with the naked eye, in their opinion, his numbers came down, but he executed what our defense needs to happen for us to be successful. When he says whatever it takes, he's going to do whatever it takes to play within the system and please us as coaches."

Brian Robison, joined by several teammates, hosted his annual Shop with a Jock event to provide gifts to needy families.

Patterson said each defensive lineman has a different assignment and lane to contain to collectively execute a rush plan while maintaining integrity against the run. Handling the responsibility correctly might cause a reduction in sack totals, but going what Patterson described as "full boar" to get to the quarterback can derail the first goal of the defense: not letting an opponent run wild.

"If you're playing the run on run downs and then transition and only rush the passer on passing downs, your numbers aren't going to be high," Patterson said, "but he does what we need to do for our defense to be successful."

Stopping an opponent's run game — on early downs in a series and throughout the game — is usually pretty high on the objective list for a defense. Forcing opponents into likely passing downs of long distances enables pass rushers to be more aggressive.

The Vikings like to show multiple looks and change personnel on third down in their nickel package. One element is sliding Robison to defensive tackle and bringing in rookie Danielle Hunter at the end spot opposite Everson Griffen.

Robison, who has 47.5 career sacks, has enough quickness and power to challenge the opposing guard and hold his own.

"Sometimes in the passing downs, quickness inside helps a little bit because you can make guys move a little bit more on the guards," Zimmer said. "He's a really good athlete, he's quick, has got good strength and he's smart – that helps."

Edwards said Robison has a "good skillset" that enables him to get more push on the interior of the pocket.

"He's got a little bit more space to work on a guy that really is not an offensive tackle that's going to widen you outside," Edwards said. "We've been able to take his skillset, he's embraced it and worked inside, created more space inside for himself, so I think that not only helps us, but I think that also helps him. He's done a tremendous job at it and continues to work at it, so hopefully we'll keep reaping dividends out of it."

The versatility adds a unique value that can be tough to replicate. The only spot up front that the Vikings haven't asked Robison to play this season is nose tackle, a post that 329-pound Linval Joseph anchored before an injury. Coaches tasked 311-pound DT Sharrif Floyd with filling the gap in Joseph's absence.

"That's real unique for him to be able to execute all of those assignments from all of those different positions, and you've got to be intelligent to be able to handle that," Patterson said.

Zimmer said Robison "has played outstanding the last two weeks, and that's helped us when we've had some of these guys hurt," at Arizona and against Chicago. Robison recorded one of five sacks of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (who had only been sacked 19 times this season) and was credited with six hurries of the QB.

At 259 pounds, Robison isn't likely to ever be asked to play nose tackle, but goodness knows he'd punch in, dig deep and show gumption instilled into him by his parents at an early age. He's now passing along similar values to younger players.

"I've always been taught that talent can only take you so far," Robison said. "At some point, you learn that everybody is talented so what's going to put you over the top is your work ethic, you know, trying to get a mental edge, all those sorts of things are what put you in position to be able to beat the guy in front of you.

"It's very important to show the young guys that because a lot of times they come in and they were the man in college or they were the man in high school, so they've kind of let their talent carry them," Robison said. "What they don't understand is when you get to this level, everybody is talented. Everybody was the man in college, everybody was the man in high school, so what is it going to take to make sure that you have the advantage over that guy?"

In addition to teaching younger players, Robison is still learning. He met with Patterson between the 2014 and 2015 seasons and refined his technique through extra work at training camp and during the season.

"That's why I have a great appreciation for him because he was a veteran guy that already had skins on the wall," Patterson said. "He could have been stuck in his ways and said, 'I've been in this league eight years. I've been paid. I'm already a name guy. I'm going to do it the way that I've always done it.' He didn't do that. He said, 'OK, coach me.' I have a great appreciation of him because of that."

A Solid Foundation

Robison loves family, football and fishing. The angler found a way to combine all three and benefit others when he launched the Reel 'Em In Foundation this year (****). 

The foundation plans to host fishing tournaments in Minnesota and Robison's native state of Texas with football players as special guests. The foundation will donate money raised to K9s4COPs, an organization that provides trained service dogs to law enforcement agencies, school districts and college campuses.

Robison and his wife Jayme Miller, an accomplished rodeo barrel racer, connected with K9s4COPs after the organization did a demonstration. It resonated with the couple. Robison's father worked 29 years in the Houston Police Department.

"It really kind of touched my heart because I know the things those guys go through," Robison said.

The foundation is an expansion of Robison's previous commitment to the community. This spring, he participated in a fundraiser organized by Casting 4 Cures to benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Robison also hosts an annual holiday "Shop with a Jock" event for children in need. He sincerely enjoyed the opportunity to brighten the holidays for 35 young people earlier this month.

"It makes you realize how blessed you are," Robison said. "You get to look at your children every day and see that they're happy and then also, just knowing where you came from and how other people are struggling, you definitely feel blessed.

"The holidays are a time where we try to give back tremendously," Robison added. "It's a very busy time, but it's also a very joyful time at our house."

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