Mr. Robbins’ Neighborhood is a little bigger and a litter better for the 2017 Game Plan Camp at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.
Nearly 70 young athletes and parents joined Fred and Tia Robbins on Wednesday during the first day of the camp. The total nearly doubled the previous years’ attendance according to Fred.
In addition to learning about football from the former Super Bowl champion defensive lineman, attendees also listened to a lineup of guest speakers, each of whom touched on the theme of preparing for life’s unexpected successes and failures.
“I want these kids to start thinking of themselves as already in college and as young professionals,” Robbins said. “You have to start early. Getting your mindset before it’s too late.”
“…Once you hit those teenage years, you’re growing into yourself. [Coaches and executives] don’t want to see those patterns repeated. These kids are getting that [message] from different walks of life.”
One player in the speaking lineup was former Missouri wide receiver Bud Sasser, who was drafted by St. Louis in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft after a standout senior season that included 1,003 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Sasser’s professional aspirations were cut short that summer, however, when a pre-existing heart condition was discovered, preventing Sasser from clearing the Rams’ medical examinations.
Though Sasser had signed his rookie contract, he was waived with a non-football-related illness designation after zero professional snaps. He exited the NFL with just his $113,737 signing bonus, according to ESPN reporting.
It’s a storyline Robbins has heard more than once, and one that’s had far worse outcomes for players who didn’t have a backup plan.
“(Sasser) never played a down in the NFL,” Robbins said. “We’ve got guys like that that were never able to play, or guys who played lengthier careers and had that cut short.”
Fred’s wife Tia has played a major role in expanding the camp’s ideas by connecting with parents’ off-the-field concerns.
Her own experiences from Robbins’ playing career – whether moving to new cities or raising children – made her ideally suited according to Fred.
“She’s been helpful and made a major impact because those are some of the questions that once they start asking, she can speak up about,” Robbins said. “Before it was just football, but now it’s more, when you look at some of the questions these kids and parents have, it’s off-the-field stuff.”
Robbins’ ambitions have apparently caught the attention of other former athletes.
Women’s basketball analyst LaChina Robinson – who played at Wake Forest while Robbins suited up for the Demon Deacons in the late 90s – has reached out about creating a similar program for her own sport.
“She wants to do something similar with a girls program,” Robbins said. “A lot of these little girls need to understand the same types of things we’re doing here with football.”
Who: Fred and Tia Robbins
What: The Game Plan Camp with Mr. Robbins' Neighborhood
When: June 14-16
Where: Andrews Institute for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
The skinny: An opportunity for local student-athletes to gain knowledge, resources and tools to be empowered in building a game plan for success.
Pensacola's Fred Robbins played in 2000 Senior Bowl before 12 year career in NFL Bill Vilona.