As America watches the 2012 Summer Olympics, there is one observer in Mankato that can especially relate.
Defensive end Brian Robison joined the Vikings as a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, but his college career at the University of Texas also included high accomplishments in track and field – with an emphasis on field.
Robison was the 2006 NCAA runner-up in the shot put as a junior and won the Big 12 shot put titles in 2005 and 2006. He also won the Big 12 discus title in 2006.
But, even with all those titles, Robison still holds an appreciation for what it takes to even make a U.S. Olympic team. He would have been close in shot put his senior year. At the U.S. Championships that year, he placed fourth.
"If the Olympics would have been that year I would have been the alternate guy in the Olympics," Robison said. "One spot out, who knows? Maybe if I would have stuck with it maybe I could have been there. I can't complain about the living I'm making right now."
He certainly shouldn't. Last year, Robison took advantage of his first opportunity to become a full-time starter with the Vikings, starting every game and garnering a career-high eight sacks and 54 tackles, including 10 of those for losses. He also finished second on the team to defending NFL sacks leader Jared Allen in quarterback hurries – Allen had 45, Robison had 40.
Robison signed a three-year, $14 million deal with the Vikings before the lockout of 2011 hit, but he maintains an affinity for track and field.
"Definitely I'll be paying attention to (the Olympics), looking it up on the Internet and watching things when I can," he said. "If you're an American, it's an exciting time of year, no matter what kind of sport you're into. To see those guys out there do what they do, you've got to have the utmost respect for them."
During his first few years in the NFL, Robison continued to work on his shot put form during the offseason, but he knows the grind that some Olympic athletes go through to realize their dream. Even so, he says he "absolutely" would have pursued a spot on the Olympic team if he didn't have the success he now enjoys in football.
He remains an admirer of the Olympians' dedication.
"I don't think a lot of people realize that a lot of those guys, that's not the only thing that they do. We come out here and this is football, this is what we do. Baseball players, they go out and they play baseball, that's what they do. For a lot of those guys, they've got their normal jobs that they work every day and then they're going out after their jobs and trying to practice to make the Olympic team," Robison said. "I have the utmost respect for them guys."
So, what other players with the Vikings might have the skills to compete for an Olympic spot if they weren't playing football?
"I think Percy (Harvin) would be a guy. Percy's definitely got the speed for it," Robison said. "He would be one of those guys that definitely has the explosiveness. I think if he was one of those guys that was able to work at it, he would be able to have a chance. Some of those things those guys do, you don't realize how hard it is until you try to do it."
Robison's off-the-cuff assessment of Harvin might not be that far off. Harvin was the only athlete in Virginia history to claim five gold medals at the state's track meet.
But Robison also had another wise pick – free-agent receiver Jerome Simpson.
"I know Jerome was a heck of a jumper, so he probably would have been a guy that might have been able to do some sort of high jump, long jump deal," Robison said.
Simpson excelled in basketball and football in high school in Reidsville, NC, but he also ran on the state-championship 4x400 relay team.
While all those high school accomplishments are impressive, Robison knows there is a big difference between a high school state champion and a U.S. Olympian.
"When you see those Olympians do what they do, it's ridiculous," he said. "Even shot put, I was one spot out, but, heck, I was one spot out but lost to the third-place guy by like three feet. Our (U.S.) shot putters are ridiculous.
"Those guys, I have the utmost respect for because they're the common man, but at the same time they're elite athletes. You just don't realize how much work they put into it."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Former shot putter Robison talks Olympics
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