At just 23 years old, Minnesota Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson holds two years of pro experience and is making a bigger impact on the league with each and every game.
Born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, FL, Robinson started playing football in fourth grade. It didn’t begin with organized little league and fundamentals; rather, Robinson found it fun to just play around with friends. “I grew up playing street ball!” he exclaimed.
Robinson loved the game from Day One and was clearly a natural athlete. However, the cornerback says he didn’t see the NFL as a very real option until after his second year of college. As a junior at the University of Central Florida, Robinson started all 12 games at corner and recorded 48 tackles, 15 passes broken up, and two interceptions—with one returned for a touchdown. He also returned seven punts (51 yards) and four kickoffs (94 yards).
That same year, the UCF Knights beat Georgia in their first-ever bowl win. “I was able to face an elite WR in AJ Green, which gave me a lot of confidence,” Robinson said. Finding consistent success against top receivers and being encouraged by a strong coaching staff, Robinson started down the path to the pros.
Robinson played college ball under the direction of head coach George O’Leary, who had previously served as the Vikings defensive coordinator under Tice. At UCF, O’Leary described Robinson as having “great closing speed and great transition speed.” This statement certainly proved true at the 2012 NFL Combine—the cornerback ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. Several teams took notice of the impressive combine numbers, but two months later, Robinson ironically found himself drafted by his coach’s former team.
Robinson drew immediate attention as a rookie in Minnesota, his speed and agility on defense living up to his reputation. He tallied 52 tackles that first season, in addition to grabbing two interceptions against the 49ers and the Bears, respectively. In October 2012, head coach Leslie Frazier expressed his confidence in the young cornerback, recognizing the talent early on:
“We know at some point […] Josh develops to the point where he can be our starting corner,” Frazier said. “That’s why we drafted him when we did.”
In 2013, the Vikings transitioned second-year Robinson from the outside role to the nickel cornerback position. The position previously belonged to veteran Antoine Winfield, known for his ruthless tackles during nine seasons in Minnesota.
How much experience did Robinson have at nickel? None. The UCF alum didn’t play a single game in the slot position, but Minnesota coaches are confident that he will develop to fill former Viking Antoine Winfield’s cleats.
“In the slot, you don’t have that sideline to kind of help you,” Frazier said. “And you’re actually asked to do a little bit more from a mental standpoint, as well. When you play the slot position, we might have you involved in our run defense. […]The responsibility changes. It requires a little bit more awareness. You have to be a better tackler and you have to have the cover skills.”
Despite struggling a bit to find his groove over the first couple games, he kept working and showed significant improvement following the Bye week. Robinson totaled 48 tackles, including a season-high 12 in Week 4. Unfortunately, he suffered a fractured sternum against Seattle in Week 11, and Robinson missed the final five games of the regular season.
Although disappointed to sit out those games, Robinson will have plenty of time to fully heal and be in game-ready condition for the 2014 season. And with the recent offseason changes, he’s anticipating opportunities that will come with a new coaching staff. On Jan 15, the Vikings hired Mike Zimmer to take over as head coach, and long-time coach Norv Turner will serve as offensive coordinator. Zimmer comes from Cincinnati, where he has been the Bengals’ defensive coordinator for the past five years.
Fans and players alike are excited to see what effect Zimmer will have on the Vikings, especially with his background and focus on the defensive side of the ball. Robinson is just as anxious to see where Zimmer takes them; he feels that the changes will have a major—and positive—impact on the team.
“I trust that the GM and owners made a great choice in coaching decisions,” Robinson said. “I’m excited to see what the future holds.”
If Zimmer has a heavy hand in the defensive scheme—which we anticipate he will—fans can expect Robinson to play a big role in the upcoming season. While some may point out Robinson’s smaller size (5’10”, 199 lbs), the CB doesn’t feel as if he’s at a disadvantage; he is confident in his position, abilities, and future success. “I landed exactly where God wanted me,” he said.
While Robinson realizes he may not be the biggest guy on the field, he creates a mindset of great motivation and challenge for himself to continue improving his game. “I think I can offer all the things you would want out of your cornerback,” Robinson says. “Ability to tackle, man coverage, etcetera –but, I can always improve in those areas!”
As Robinson continues to develop as an all-around player, his family proves an important support system both on and off the field. The cornerback emphasizes that his family encouraged his journey to the NFL and have been behind him 100 percent. In addition to his immediate family, one of Robinson’s biggest supporters is his wife Julie. Robinson smiles, saying that one of Julie’s favorite things to tell him prior to a game is, “Ball out and get me a Pick Six!”
Off the field, Josh and Julie have a headline of their own: No. 21’s cheering section will gain one more in May, when the Robinson’s will welcome their first son, Jesse Javon. Robinson cannot wait to be a father, and it’s clear that he loves talking about his family and the experiences he’s had thus far. All in all, the 23-year-old considers himself extremely blessed.
Those who follow Robinson on Twitter or hear him speak know that Christianity plays an integral part in his life. “My faith in God gives me faith in myself,” explains Robinson. “I believe that without my spiritual beliefs and values, I wouldn’t be where I am today!”
His time with the Vikings has only just started, and he is anxious for next season when he can once again take on top receivers, including Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. “I enjoy going against elite [players],” said Robinson, “so in our division, I have that chance often!”
As the interview wraps up, Robinson receives this question: “who are you taking in the Super Bowl?”
He smiles. Pauses.
“Minnesota Vikings in 2015.”
Watch out, Megatron. Josh Robinson will be back in 2014… and he’s ready to go.
Lindsey Young is a graduate of Northwestern College (University of Northwestern – St. Paul) and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Currently working full time at her alma mater, she continues to write and contribute to various sources, in pursuit of a career in sports journalism. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report, TCHuddle.com, TimberPups.com and Timberwolves.com. You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter @lilshortie2712.