NEWARK, N.J. — No one is happier to be here than Burton Michael Robinson of the Seattle Seahawks.
No, not so much because he had a pulpit at the annual Super Bowl media day circus Tuesday at the Prudential Center, home ice of the New Jersey Devils. Not so much because he will play in his first Super Bowl Sunday.
The former Penn State quarterback known as Michael Robinson or Mike Rob, is just glad to be here. Here, as in walking God’s white earth.
It might be too strong to say Robinson nearly died during the preseason last summer, but only because he told his doctors he did not want to hear such things at the time. His kidneys and liver began shutting down after he took the prescription anti-inflammatory drug Indocin for an ankle injury. It took him three trips to the hospital before they discovered it. Twice, they sent him home with instructions to drink more fluids. The third time, they called in specialists who discovered the problem.
All he lost were 33 pounds and his job as Seattle’s starting fullback. His doctors kept all other possible negative outcomes from him for a while.
“I did tell the doctors early in the process, I don’t want to hear a lot of bad news,” a healthy and robust Robinson said Tuesday, back at his old job blocking for four-time Pro Bowl halfback Marshawn Lynch after missing half the season. “You know what I mean? I believe in good spirits, good powers, good vibes. I didn’t want to hear a lot of bad news, so I think they may have kept that away from me.
“But as I got better, they told me people usually don’t survive two of these episodes, so I really have to be careful.”
Robinson’s eight-year NFL journey has been unusual enough without the 2013 drama that not only knocked him for a loop but also coldly knocked him from the roster of the Seahawks for seven games.
Even while he was playing wide receiver and quarterback at Penn State, even while he was leading them to a Big Ten title and was the conference’s offensive player of the year in 2005, Joe Paterno told him some day he would make a good NFL fullback.
“I had no idea,” Robinson said. “Joe did, but I didn’t. I had no idea. Yes, he did.”
The NFL had no idea for a while either. San Francisco drafted him in the fourth round to play wide receiver and return kicks. He did that with the 49ers, but he wasn’t a productive receiver, never managing more than 202 yards in a season. The 49ers cut him before the 2010 season.
Seattle signed Robinson three days later, and he stuck. The Seahawks converted him to more of a running back in 2011, then shifted him to fullback in 2012. He made the Pro Bowl that season.
But then came that nastiness in August and, while it took him seven years to become an overnight sensation in Seattle, the Seahawks coldly cut him because of his health problems.
“Yeah, I got released as I was on the road to recovery” Robinson said, with no trace of bitterness. “It is a tough blow, but it is business. You’re paid to do a job, and, if I’m not able to put a product on the field, you’re not able to keep your job.”
He got his job back Oct. 22 after the Seahawks came calling again following injuries to two of their young fullbacks. He thought about how they had cut him, but shrugged it off.
“I wrestled with it, but it was easy when I looked at my relationship with the guys on the team. That’s why you play this game … we all perform because the guy next to you is counting on you.”
Mostly, it’s the guy behind him, Lynch, who has 4,051 yards rushing the past three seasons. Robinson paves the way, proving Paterno’s instincts were correct.
“I would always just say the more you can do, the more value you can add to your roster spot, whether it be special teams or whether it be working at different positions,” Robinson said. “The more you can do, the more value you can have.
“My value to the Seahawks is obviously being a punishing fullback. I can help out in the passing game, I can be a third-down back if you need me to be. I can carry the ball if you need me to.”
He has kept up on what’s happened at Penn State since the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and believes the school and the team are on the right track, first with hiring Bill O’Brien and now James Franklin as Paterno’s successors.
“The school did a good job trying to find a coach,” said Robinson, who earned two degrees at Penn State. “It was definitely a tough job for anybody coming in there. I thought O’Brien did the best that he could.
“I think we have a great guy there now in coach Franklin. I look forward to him doing better things.”
He’s also looking forward to the rest of this week. And beyond.
“It just feels awesome to be here, it’s a humbling experience to just get here. You work so hard to get here, and it all comes down to this one game. This is what you work your whole life for.
“Personally, going through the experience I’ve been through this past year, it’s very, very gratifying to be here right now.”
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.