EAGAN, Minn. – Brian Robison walks over to the Minneapolis Miracle wall in the Vikings Museum, pans across the larger-than-life image of Stefon Diggs’ leaping catch and then locks onto a clear case.
Inside, a notebook displays the last-second play that advanced the 2017 team to the NFC Championship game.
“Look at that,” Robison says, tapping the glass. “That was the play.”
On a monitor to the left, the now infamous sideline-cam video replays the pandemonium that ensued after the unlikely score. Robison comes into view on-screen, sprinting to the pile of celebrating players in his 96 jersey.
He laughs now, re-living that moment.
“That actually probably was the fastest 40 I ever ran,” he quips.
Just over an hour before visiting the museum, Robison had stood at a podium for his retirement press conference at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. Filled with tears, laughter and then back again, the media session allowed an emotional Robison to share his story that, most recently, involved 11 seasons in Purple.
Robison was asked during the presser if he could close his eyes, reflect over the past decade-plus and see one game, one memory, one snapshot, above the rest.
He hesitated for the briefest of moments before answering with resolve: The Minneapolis Miracle.
“To me, that game was the ultimate team game. We had to have every piece of the puzzle fall into place to win that game,” Robison said. “And I’ve always felt like I was a team guy, and that roller coaster of emotions was what an NFL career is. It’s a roller coaster of emotions.”
Although he didn’t realize it at the time, the Divisional Round playoff game against the Saints would be Robison’s last non-exhibition game at U.S. Bank Stadium and penultimate of his career.
The defensive end was released prior to the 2018 season. On April 24, he signed a one-day contract to officially retire with the team that drafted him in 2007.
Robison finished his career having played 173 games for Minnesota, third-most in Vikings history by a defensive end. He was a part of four NFC North Division Championship teams and played in two NFC Championship games. In his last regular-season game, he grabbed his 60th and final career sack.
But looking back over his time in the NFL, it isn’t the stats – or even the team wins – that Robison most treasures. It’s not the practices, the road trips or even running through the tunnel at U.S. Bank Stadium that most causes an ache in his heart.
Rather, it’s the relationships.
“[General Manager Rick Spielman] told you all the accolades that I’ve gotten over the years, and all that’s fine and dandy,” Robison told media members. “But the thing that I’m going to miss the most is the people.”
He mentioned the coaches who have helped him develop on and off the field – “they’re not only the best coaches; they’re the best people” – and spoke highly of the teammates he had along the way, many of whom were in attendance Wednesday afternoon.
Robison named Kevin Williams, whom he called “probably the first guy who really taught me how to be a true professional.” He gestured toward the back of the room to former linebacker Chad Greenway, with whom he spent 10 seasons.
“I think Chad is the professional of all professionals – not only for the way he handled himself on the field but community-wise,” said Robison, who shared that Greenway was a major motivator for Robison to create his own charitable effort, the Reel ’Em In Foundation.
Robison thanked Everson Griffen for always pushing him to compete. He recalled the way Jared Allen took the time to pass along his defensive know-how, which Robison then paid forward when the Vikings drafted defensive end Danielle Hunter in 2015.
“I tried to teach Danielle everything I know. And what does he give me in appreciation? He takes my spot,” Robison quipped in direction of the soft-spoken Hunter. “Thanks for that, Danielle.”
Earlier in the day, Robison had spent time with Hall of Famer John Randle, who was the first Viking to sack Packers quarterback Brett Favre. Ironically, Robison became the final Viking to take down Favre in a Green Bay jersey, doing so as a rookie in 2007.
Randle and Robison, now both Vikings Legends, posed for a photo holding the one that had been inscribed by Favre himself: B-Rob, You lucky I tripped!!! LOL. Awesome teammate and heck of a player. All the best, Brett.
Robison and Favre shared a locker room for two seasons after the quarterback signed with his former division rival, including a special 2009 run. But of that and the other 10 seasons, Robison said the 2017 campaign, his final in Purple, will forever hold a special place in his heart.
“Our 2017 football team was probably the best football team that I’ve ever been a part of,” he said from the podium. “From top to bottom, not only with athleticism, but our locker room dynamic. We truly were a brotherhood. There’s been guys that have come and gone that were at the top of their game. But that locker room that was assembled that year was a championship-caliber football team. It was a brotherhood of guys that truly cared about each other.”
Robison stopped to compose himself before continuing.
“As I sit here and I look at my teammates in this room now, I love you guys,” he said, his voice breaking. “You guys are my brothers that I never had. You guys can always pick up that phone and call me. You guys will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. And I mean that. I love you guys.”
From coaches and teammates to Minnesotans scattered throughout the state, Robison has always been one to deeply connect with those around him.
View the best images of Vikings defensive lineman Brian Robison throughout his career.
“I’ve always been a people person. It’s never been about money, it’s never been about the accolades,” Robison said. “It’s always been about the people I’m around. It’s always about the team. And I felt like, each and every day, I owed it to go out there and give my best. Not to reap the benefits of fame or finances, but I owed it to that man next to me that was counting on me to do my job so he could be successful doing his.”
Added Robison: “And I hope that at the end of the day, I have the respect of each and every one of my teammates, each and every one of my coaches, everybody from the organization, the trainers … to know that I gave everything I had. I may not have had 100 percent to give all the time, but I gave everything I had.”
At the Vikings Museum, Robison is asked to describe the emotions he felt watching Diggs run into the end zone as time expired. He searched for the words before answering.
“You did not know if it was real,” he says thoughtfully. “The first thing you do is, you look back to make sure there’s no flags. Because you’re like, ‘There’s no way it’s going to end that way. And then you look around, you look at the scoreboard, and it’s like, ‘This just happened.’ It’s kind of hard to explain.
“The whole roller coaster, up-and-down emotion throughout your career, all encapsulated in one game, and it happens to be the last game I ever played in U.S. Bank Stadium, it’s pretty surreal.”
Just like that electric playoff game, Robison’s football career is now in the rearview mirror – at moments, seeming like a blur; other times, likely slowing down to a crawl. There have been highs and lows: a 3-13 team and a 13-3 team. A collapsed roof and a grand opening. Epic victories and agonizing defeats.
But when he looks back, Brian Robison did it all the right way. There are no flags. It was all, in fact, very real. And while it didn’t end the way he thought it would, the forever-Viking can walk away from the field knowing that he’s leaving a legacy to be proud of.
“You win some, you lose some; you get beat down, you get tired, you find a way to rise back up,” Robison told Twin Cities media members. “And to me, that’s the epitome of what an NFL career is.”
To celebrate his official retirement from the Vikings view images of Brian Robison's headshots with Minnesota through-the-years.