A knee twists the wrong way. A ligament finally gives out. A bone cracks in a bad place.
Former NFL defensive tackle Fred Robbins said he’s seen it too many times: Good, hard-working players whose athletic careers are cut short by problems outside of their control.
And when the end comes so swiftly, Robbins said it’s common for athletes to be unprepared.
“You never know when the injuries are going to come and when it happens, what do you have to fall back on?” Robbins said. “Just realizing like how many obstacles you have to overcome to achieve this goal. You can do everything right and still not make it.”
With those memories in mind, Robbins held his annual Mr. Robbins Neighborhood football camp from Wednesday to Friday this week, focusing on helping young athletes build a “game plan” for whatever may happen.
“Just like you have any offense or defense game plan you get before gameday,” Robbins said. “You might practice everything, but you have to practice more than one thing because one thing might not work, two things might not work, or even three things might not work. We have to have a game plan and a variety of opportunities.”
Robbins brought in a number of coaches, scouts and former players to help send this message with tales of their own experience. Between stories of success and failure, Robbins said he hoped the kids would walk away with a better perspective of their future and the importance of valuing schoolwork.
“The goal is really just to open their eyes up to more career opportunities and give them the facts and the stats of what it takes to get to the NFL, but also how hard it is,” Robbins said.
“The things you have to go through on a daily basis and the people you need in your life.”
Not that the camp was all about reality checks.
“Uncle Fred” and his campers spent two sessions a day working out and building skills at the Andrews Institute.
The sweltering 95 degree heat wouldn’t stop the fun as the Super Bowl XLII champion imparted footwork and technique tips to the many linemen in attendance.
“I don’t even want to go home,” said San Antonio Broadnax, a football player in attendance. “This is fun.”
Playing football and joking around with a former NFL player is a memory Broadnax said he’ll remember for a long time, though the life lessons he’d learned may be more valuable.
“It’s showing us how to become better men instead of just all about football,” Broadnax said.
“He’s been showing us around inside and outside the classroom.”