In those times, the schism between professional athletes and media types is much more pronounced. A media type can analyze all he or she wants, but they don’t “know” the game or the assignments like the coaches and players.
Those who are the faceplates of the franchise in bad times are truly good guys. As a result, the local beat writers of the 32 NFL teams honor a player who exemplifies accessibility, a sense of humor and a willingness to talk when everything inside them tells them not to. It’s the Good Guy Award, which, in the case of the Vikings is an award named after Korey Stringer.
On Wednesday, defensive end Brian Robison was the 2014 recipient of the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award.
Robison showed off his sense of humor by saying it will be included in his trophy room of NFL accolades – of which the Stringer Award will be the first trophy in it.
Asked where he learned to let a tough loss soak in before dealing with potentially inane media questions, Robison credited his time as a Texas Longhorn and the excessive attention that program received in the local media.
“I think the University of Texas, where I went to college, did a very good job of that – teaching us how to deal with media,” Robison said. “For me, I was able to be blessed enough to go to a big college like that, that had a lot of media in the locker rooms after a loss, after a win, and it just taught me that if you want to be able to connect with the fans and have the fans see you in that type of light, no matter if it’s after a loss or a win, you want to convey the message. Not only to the media, but to the fans, because y’all have a job to do and the fans want to know what you’re thinking after a loss. They want to know what type of guy you are, all of those things. The media is really an intricate role in how we relate ourselves to the fans.”
For most of his career, Robison was the “little brother” on the defensive line. When he came into the league, the Vikings had Pat and Kevin Williams on the line and, a year later, Jared Allen came to town. Robison grew into his job surrounded by guys who had been there and done that. Many times, they were the people the media went to after tough losses to get quotes – to the point that, given his lesser status at the time, it was often difficult to get to his own locker because a throng of cameras was surrounding Allen or Kevin Williams.
Now, Robison is one of the old gunslingers in the Vikings locker room. He equates being a leader to being a voice of the organization when times are tough. Robison’s role with the team has been defined by his ascent up the veteran chart – and it applies to both his teammates and the media.
“I think it’s one thing to be in a locker room and be able to talk to guys and stuff like that, but at the same time there’s things that sometimes need to be said to the media that the outside world can see,” Robison said. “When you’re a leader, sometimes you may not always say the right thing. You may not always say the best thing that’s good for the team. As a leader, there’s a lot of times things that need to be said. For me, it’s really about being up front and honest with you guys as much as I possibly can. Obviously, we’ve always got some things that are said in the locker room and they stay in the locker room, but for you guys I always try to be as up-front and honest with y’all as I possibly can.”
Being respected by teammates is one thing. Being respected by a new head coach is another. Mike Zimmer knew who Robison was, but, in a different way, had no clue who he was or how he was wired.
“I had never met Brian before I got here or anything like that, but I think that he helped to kind of preach the message to, especially to the defensive players, of what we’re trying to get done,” Zimmer said. “I asked him to change his game and a lot of things of what he did for the betterment of the defense. He is a guy that I can go and talk to and ask him different questions about what his opinion is, what he thinks about and I think those kind of guys are important when you first come into a place. He’s been solid. For instance, I talked to him about a couple of things that he needs to do that he wasn’t doing. He said, ‘I’ve got it, I’m going to fix it this week.’ That’s the kind of guy he is that he’s going to do whatever he can do to help in any way.”
Much of the team Robison came into was a veteran unit that had its own code of how things are done the “Vikings Way.” Ownership has changed. Coaching staffs have changed. The Vikings Way hasn’t changed.
Did those players make an impact on Robison?
“Big time,” Robison said. “Especially Jared (Allen). Kevin (Williams) and even Chad Greenway. Greenway has always been a tremendous guy with you guys, as well. I believe he’s a past award winner, as well. Having those guys around, not only on the team, but right there next to my locker, hearing those guys speak all of the time to you guys, it kind of overflows to you and it kind of gives you that same ability to be able to tell you guys kind of the same things.”
The 2014 Korey Stringer Good Guy Award is in good hands.
Like with most aspects of his NFL career, Robison wasn’t awarded it. He earned it.