Brian Robiskie: All in the Family
From the Rooneys to the Mannings, football has always been about family. The NFL has seen over 150 father-son duos in its long history, and Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie is about to add his name to the list. Brian's dad Terry was a running back with the Raiders and Dolphins for five years, from 1977 through 1981, and since retiring has been a coach with the Raiders, Redskins, Browns, and now the Falcons, where he coaches receivers.
For all the players Terry Robiskie has helped in his long career, his most intriguing student might very well be his son, Brian, who has excelled with the Ohio State Buckeyes since 2006. Robiskie the younger is now known as one of the most intelligent and polished players in the college ranks, and growing up with a father who knows the ins and outs of the pro game hasn't hurt.
"There's no doubt in my mind that having him right there has been an advantage for me," he said recently. "I know that it hasn't always been easy, in that he's going to pick up on more stuff than a lot of dads see watching the football games. He's going to pick up on a lot more watching a son play the position he coaches. He tends to see things that other people probably wouldn't catch. He's always finding little critiques on me, on the field and off the field. It's been just a tremendous blessing just to have him in my life, to have him coach me on the field and coach me off the field. He's played in college, played in the NFL, he's done everything I'm doing right now. He's faced every situation I'm coming to face right now."
And through Robiskie's post-college process, the Senior Bowl, Combine, and Pro Day, he's been helped immeasurably by his dad's knowledge. "I think that I can really see how much he's picked up on these past couple months. Him watching me in college, and him watching me on tape, there's always things he can point out."
"I always remember that time of year [the Senior Bowl]; he was always on the road for that weekend. He would always come back and tell me about the guys, so that it was funny that this would be the week that we'd be there together. Starting from there, having him tell me 'Okay, this is what you do on second day, this is what you do the first couple of days', they're all things I'm going to find out anyway, but to have him tell me that, 'Ok, when you get to the Combine, this is the stuff that you should expect, these are some of the things you should expect,' it makes you feel prepared a bit more."
Robiskie was never specifically coached by his dad on the same team, but "in the background, he was always coaching me."
Born on December 3, 1987, Robiskie grew up in different places, moving as his dad did. From a young age, he got to see what the NFL life was like. "[B]ack then I didn't really understand the magnitude of what I was doing and being around guys like Marcus Allen, Tim Brown and such, but looking back now... I would always follow the receivers, so I was drawn to that. Wherever my dad's been... there's always been guys that have given me a little push."
That's where the on-field maturity comes from, as he explained. "I think that my mindset has been kind of, I don't want to say programmed, but it's everything that I've been doing. Just from me watching professional football, from being on the sidelines watching professional games."
Robiskie hasn't just stood out on the field -- he just graduated from Ohio State with a degree in marketing, was named Academic All-American in 2007 and 2008, and was a finalist for the Draddy Award, given for academic excellence. The football side came from his father but, Brian told me, making sure he hit the books was the job of his mother, Cynthia.
"I can remember my Mom saying that if I didn't bring home good enough grades, I wouldn't be able to play any sports. She said that as soon as I got into high school. That was something she felt very, very strongly about, and I think she really laid the foundation for me then, so that when I got into college, I was able to use all the resources that we have here at Ohio State and that just made it very, very easy for me. I was able to benefit from all that."
After a record-setting stint at Chagrin Falls High in Cleveland, Robiskie stayed close to home. "I wasn't a highly recruited guy," he said. "I think if I wasn't coming to Ohio State, I would've went to the University of Miami. I didn't get my offer to Ohio State until really late in the process, but being here and being around the coaches -- coming down here and seeing the long lineage of great receivers that have played at Ohio State, guys like Cris Carter, Terry Glenn and David Boston and Santonio Holmes and Michael Jenkins recently -- it always seemed like there was great receivers coming out of here. It's an unbelievable place with an unbelievable tradition."
That tradition got in the way early on, when Robiskie had to wait for players like Holmes to move on before he could really shine. Then, in his senior season, the insertion of freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor led to a more run-based attack. As a result, Robiskie's career stats -- 127 catches for 1,866 yards and 24 touchdowns -- don't really reflect what he's capable of. In addition, his rep as a "slow-but-stable" receiver make him out to be exclusively a short-area possession threat, ignoring the fact that he can get separation downfield.
"I think that anybody that followed Ohio State this past year knows we definitely changed a lot of what we were doing offensively, compared to the previous year," he said. "If you're looking at the stats that I had this year compared to last year, you might think there's an issue or something happened, but it was just a change in offense and that was it. I think that was part of the reason why I really wanted to do everything I could in this off-season process... I just wanted to be able to answer a lot of questions people had."
Robiskie did answer those questions, starting with the Senior Bowl, where he impressed in practices right away. Of course, the best part of that experience was that he finally got to see what his dad had been talking about all those years -- and he got to compare notes firsthand. "I think just having the opportunity to spend it with my Dad," he said, when asked what the highlight of Senior Bowl week was for him. "He was there the whole week... I think a lot of the coaches go there for the first couple of days and they leave later in the week -- but he stayed with me the whole week and he was out there watching practice, critiquing me like I was another receiver and it was just good to have him there."
At the Combine, Robiskie displayed his predominant attributes, impressing greatly in pass-catching drills and finishing among the best of all receivers in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. His 4.48-40 didn't put him in the "burner" class, but may have surprised those who automatically classify any finished product when it comes to route running as a slower player. Robiskie, like many receivers before him, seems to have just as much speed as he needs.
"I think that the biggest question for me was everybody was wondering what I was going to run. I think people had a lot of different ideas of the time I was going to run and I ended up running a decent time. I know that I could've gone faster, but I think that it's still good. While I was able to come out there and run a good 40, I wanted to continue to show that I could run good routes and get in and out of breaks, and catch the ball. I just wanted to do everything so there wouldn't be any questions."
I asked Robiskie what his bread-and-butter route was in college. "I think that we ran so many post routes this past season, I would probably say that was one of my favorite routes," he said. "Running those routes where coaches tell you, 'You have to get to this spot, and you have to be here' here it was more of a, 'You can do what you need to do, but beat the guy over top of you'. So whenever I was in that route or when that route called, whether it was press coverage and depending on the leverage of the corner, I went inside or outside, and if he was soft, I was able to do different things with my stem and kinda get him to widen outside if I wanted to. Or just kinda move him around. I had a lot of freedom with that."
Specifically, the Buckeyes would outdo opposing defenses with a double-post. "It's a two-receiver set, lining up the two receivers together. I'm normally the outside guy, and we have a slot receiver. He would normally take off and try to contain the inside shoulder of the safety, and that would leave me one-on-one with the corner. Like I said, if it's off coverage or press coverage, I can do whatever I need to do. If its press, if I can beat him outside with a fade, then I'll take that. If it's soft, and I can run him out with a nine route or post route, then I'll run that. I think that we ran a lot of those last year (2007), and we ran some this year (2008), and I think we were successful on a lot of them."
What will he bring to the NFL team that drafts him? What's his best football quality? "Understanding the game. Understanding how to run routes, how to get open. I think another thing I try to pride myself on is just making a play on a ball when it's in the air. If it's a jump ball or whatever the case may be, I can come down with it. I think that I was told, by my Dad when I started playing receiver, that you had to block. All receivers had to block, so I think that's something I also pride myself on. As far as some of my weaknesses, getting in and out of breaks is something everybody can work on, but I know for me, taking this next step, obviously corners are going to be that much quicker and they're going to be on you that much more, so I think it's just being more efficient at the top and being able to get in and out quicker."
NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst and fellow PreDraft Rob Rang likes what he's seen of Robiskie. "While the 2009 draft class features a rare collection of size and speed receivers, few are more NFL-ready than Robiskie," Rob said. "His long, tapered build is well suited to the pro game and he has enough speed to challenge corners before throttling down and making quick cuts to gain separation. Robiskie ranks among this year's elite route-runners and has strong, reliable hands for the reception. He lacks the elite agility to make defenders miss in the open field or the sudden acceleration to generate long gains after the catch, but he is a strong open-field runner with vision who can gain extra yards in chunks.
Currently visiting and working out with several NFL teams -- he's already spent time with the Broncos, Bears, and Dolphins -- Robiskie will soon find a life in the NFL. And why not? He took a blueprint he's had all his life, and matched that with his own talent and determination.
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