When the Minnesota Vikings selected linebacker Edmond Robinson in the seventh round of this year’s draft he was a relative unknown. He attended Newberry College, a Division II school, and played primarily as a coverage linebacker. The coaching staff knew that he was going to be a project player, but at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds he had size and speed that the coaches liked.
Throughout OTAs, minicamp and training camp, it was clear that Robinson was going to need some time to develop, but observers could also see a clear progression in his development. He seemed to be able to pick up what the coaching staff was teaching him and it showed in the final preseason games as he played relatively well in them.
“I believe I am a quick learner,” Robinson said. “I believe that anybody, if this is what you want to do you’ll make the time and effort and put it into being the best you can be. I felt like this is exactly what I want to be doing with my life for that moment, so I felt like I should give it my all. That’s why I put a lot of time in the film room and even out of the facility watching film on my own and trying to improve on those little things that I know that’s going to make me a better player in the future.”
One thing that really helped Robinson in his development was the fact that he landed in a place like Minnesota. The team has a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer who loves big, fast, versatile players and his son, Adam Zimmer, is the linebackers coach.
There are plenty of talented linebackers on the team, so there has never been a lot of pressure for Robinson to develop quickly and start. The team can take their time with him and develop him properly.
“I think coming from a Division II school there’s a lot of knock on me and other players coming out,” the rookie said. “But I felt like coming in here I love the coaching staff. It was a perfect fit. I love the players because I believe this is going to be a really good year for the Minnesota Vikings, so I just felt like I came in and they’re not asking me to be like a major contributor right now on defense. They just want to groom me along, but it’s a great thing when I can learn from Coach Zim and learn from players like Chad (Greenway) and Anthony Barr. I can learn from those guys and they’re just going to help me turn me into the player I know I can be.”
Throughout the preseason, it was clear the Vikings were going to keep Barr, Chad Greenway, Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole and Eric Kendricks on the 53-man roster. It was believed they were only going to keep one other linebacker and it was between Robinson, Michael Mauti, Brandon Watts and Brian Peters.
All of them showed plenty of skills throughout the offseason and it was clearly going to be a tough choice. Mauti was claimed by the New Orleans Saints, and Watts and Peters ended up on the practice squad. Robinson seemed as though he was going to be a good practice squad candidate because he was a rookie and still a raw player, but he made enough of an impact in the preseason to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
A big part of the decision likely came from the fact that Robinson has a lot of upside and the team didn’t want to risk losing that when he was on the practice squad.
The young linebacker was never informed by any of the coaches that he had survived the cut but figured he made the roster because he never heard anything. That suspicion was then confirmed when his agent called him to give him the good news.
“I didn’t get a phone call, but my agent actually called me and said, ‘Congratulations.’ I was like, ‘For what?’ And he was like, ‘Well, you made the 53-man roster.’ And it was basically more of a sigh of relief that it was over,” he said. “But at the end of the day it’s just the beginning so I was really excited about it.”
The coaching staff has not definitively told Robinson what his role on the team is going to be, but he has a good idea on what the plan is, just from the way the coaches have been handling him in the practices.
“I haven’t (heard my role) but just going along with some of the things they’re telling me they want to groom me and turn me into the player that they have planned for me and that I have a lot of tools and techniques I can improve on,” he said. “But they just like that I’m big, fast, physical and easily taught. I’m a player that can do whatever they’re asking me to do. So I believe right now it’s just as a special teams role and as a backup linebacker.”
The Vikings’ Week 1 game against the San Francisco 49ers is coming up this Monday, and like every other NFL team they will be allowed to dress 46 of the 50-plus players they have on their active roster (teams are allowed 53 on the active roster, but John Sullivan’s trip to injured reserve this week leaves them with 52 for now).
For that reason, Robinson is not sure if he will get the chance to dress or not, but either way he is excited to experience the moment. He has come a long way since his first practice as a freshman at Newberry College and he is excited to see where his journey will take him.
“(Playing on Monday night) is definitely something I’ve dreamt of and played over in my mind a lot,” he said. “But it seemed like it was a far reach back at Newberry and I never lost sight of that goal. But now that it’s here it’s like it flashed before my eyes. It just seems like I was a freshman in college and now I’m basically a freshman in the NFL all over again. So I’m just excited about the situation and I’m excited about everything to come.”