New Pro Bowler high on life after cheating death
KOREN Robinson waded into the sea of autograph seekers yesterday at Aloha Stadium, and inhaled.
He inhaled the atmosphere, he inhaled the aura, the aloha. He embraced it, and basked in it, and he breathed it in. He inhaled.
He knows now.
"A lot of people go though life and not even realize that they're breathing, you know what I'm saying?" the Minnesota Vikings return man says. "They don't even take the time to know that they ... that they're taking air in. You know, a lot of people do that. They just go through the day without realizing that they're pumping air in. Or that they're blessed to be breathing right now. And that's not me, man. I'm so blessed -- everybody's so blessed. But I'm so blessed, I'm so thankful of my situation. It's just crazy, man."
This is the same Koren Robinson who was cut loose, released. The shining star who kept falling short, chance after chance. The guy whose career was already over, before it really began. The guy who took all that talent and threw it away. That guy.
At the Pro Bowl.
"I can't put it in words," he says. "I feel real good, real special, man. And I know I'm doing something right, now. But I've got to keep it on that path, keep it going."
This was the N.C. State star who was going to hit it big with the Seahawks. He should have been Super, last week. Instead, he'd been suspended, then cut. Asked to leave. No longer with the team when it reached its highest peak.
"It was difficult for me," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said of Robinson's saga at his Jan. 30 press conference, "because I cared about the young man."
Yesterday, Robinson said: "I thought I had burned all my bridges with the NFL.
"After Seattle had released me, I didn't know if I was going to get another chance, to tell you the truth. I just had that feeling."
Minnesota's Koren Robinson, left, and St. Louis' Torry Holt shared a laugh yesterday during the NFC practice at Ihilani.
What did that feel like?
"Oh, it felt crazy! I felt real crazy, man. It was that feeling of uncertainty, man, you know, everyone else was at training camp and I was in the rehab center. You know what I'm saying?"
Yes, the rehab center. He'd been suspended under the league's substance-abuse policy, in his career, for breaking team rules, too. In June 2005 the Seahawks had had enough. Cut him. A first-round draft pick, gone.
A month earlier, he'd been arrested for DUI. That was the last straw. For the team. For Robinson himself. That was it. He checked himself in. He wasn't kidding. Everyone else was at training camp. He was in rehab. Five weeks.
"It was good for me," he says. "It was good for me, man. But in the beginning it was definitely strange. Because I had never really been in a situation like that, man, and really taking heed to everything they were saying. So it was really kind of crazy."
Was it what they were saying to him? Or was it what he'd already told himself by making that move?
"After I got the DUI, man," Robinson says, "I knew that it was time ... it was time to do something, man. It was time for me to do something. Because I started thinking like, I started thinking maybe I could hurt myself. I could have hurt somebody else. I could have killed myself, I could have killed somebody else. And then my family would have to live with the grieving and all the mourning over something that I did. My stupidity."
He didn't like it, was tired of it.
"It was pretty much after the DUI, I came to the realization that I have to think about everybody else besides myself," he says.
He went into rehab, five weeks. Came out different. Changed. Breathing again.
He thought football was over for him, every bridge burned. Did he dream of the NFL in that clinic, is that what kept him going during that stretch? No, he said. He had more important things on his mind.
But then the Vikings picked him up, took a chance. He fit in, had a good year, was great at returning kicks. His teammates voted to give him the Vikings' Ed Block Courage Award, given to "players of inspiration."
"I think he was a competitive guy who cared about his teammates and really wanted to win, but just had some things he had to deal with off the field," Holmgren told reporters before the Super Bowl.
So here he is, after all that, at the Pro Bowl, one of the best in the game. He inhales every bit of it. He's got to keep this path going. Wow, it feels great.
It's just crazy, man.
What a day to be breathing. Breathing again.
"I can't complain, man, I'm happy," he says. "I'm happy as I've ever been. I have a different perspective on life. I'm loving life, living every moment of it. Enjoying myself. And not taking anything for granted, man."
He almost shouts it. He has plenty of air in his lungs.