Oakland Raiders defensive end Ryan Robinson (58) on the bench during the fourth quarter in an preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys on Aug. 9. (Photo: Bob Stanton/USA TODAY Sports)
Every moment of his first NFL training camp offers new experiences for Ryan Robinson.
Some are fun. Some are difficult. Some are downright shocking, like what happened to the Mill grad a week ago during his Oakland Raiders’ 28-20 preseason loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Fellow rookie David Bass forced a fumble from Saints quarterback Seneca Wallace and the football squirted out at the 1-yard line, bouncing parallel to the goal line. Robinson was in perfect position, scooping the ball up for his first NFL touchdown, in just his second game.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end was mobbed by his teammates, and he wasn’t about to give up the football as he walked off the field.
“I didn’t think I’d have a touchdown already,” Robinson said. “It just fell into my lap and I tried to make the most of it. It was unreal that I scored a touchdown.”
The well-circulated video of the play, at least among Robinson’s family and friends, is the highlight of the former Oklahoma State standout’s rookie preseason thus far. He finished with two tackles vs. the Saints and had one solo tackle in his NFL debut the previous week against the Dallas Cowboys.
The 22-year-old works primarily in pass-rush situations, his expected role again tonight when Oakland plays the Chicago Bears.
“I’m trying to get pressure on quarterbacks and get around guys bigger than me with my speed,” Robinson said. “I feel like I’m showing (the Raiders) how fast I can run, that I’m a versatile player. That I can make an impact in third-down packages, get sacks and get my hands up and bat the ball down. That I can help out on special teams.”
The special teams role is pretty much a mandatory one, particularly for an undrafted free agent and backup defensive end like Robinson, who shares the training camp experience with a rookie wide receiver who he played against in high school, Norcross grad Brice Butler, a Raiders seventh-round draft choice this year.
“Brice is doing real good, he’s making big plays,” Robinson said. “He already scored a touchdown vs. Dallas the first week. He’s always been a great player. He just never got to show it at USC (before playing his final season at San Diego State). He’s getting his chance and making the most of it.”
That’s also the goal for Robinson, who comes from a family of NFL players. His uncles Ken (currently the head football coach at Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn), James and Leroy all played in the NFL.
His cousin Christian Robinson (Ken’s son) was signed to a rookie free agent deal by the St. Louis Rams earlier this year, but didn’t make the training camp roster.
The Mill Creek coaches have enjoyed Robinson’s progression to this level, a winding road that detoured two years to Jones County (Miss.) Community College, then two more at Oklahoma State.
“From the first day Ryan walked in the door of Mill Creek High School you could see that he possessed unlimited potential athletically to play at the highest level,” Mill Creek head football coach Shannon Jarvis said. “What you could not see initially, though, was that his greatest strength was not his athletic ability but in his morals and values. We quickly learned he was a young man of high character that carried with him a quiet determination that has been unmatched by any player at Mill Creek since.
“His road to the NFL has not been easy and you can quickly point to his quiet strength as the cornerstone of his success. Nothing he accomplishes in life will surprise me because, in the end, you are doing him a disservice by thinking of him only as a football player because he is an even greater man. Mill Creek could not be prouder of the man he has become.”
Robinson graduated from Oklahoma State with a degree in education, but he wouldn’t be upset if he didn’t put that to use for awhile. His initial goal is to make a career out of the NFL.
“It’s just fun,” Robinson said of NFL camp. “It’s a good experience. It’s an opportunity I’ve been working for my whole life. Being here is a blessing. I’ve come a long way since Mill Creek.”