Millions of fans cheer Brian Robison for terrifying opposing quarterbacks, and at 6-3, 259, there's plenty of cause for that. But pay attention to his hooksetting sack dance and you'll see that under the purple and gold jersey, number 96 is fisherman just like you and me.
(Root) How long have you been playing football?
(Robison) I've been playing football almost 30 years.
(Root) How has that commitment to the team atmosphere impacted your time on the water? Do you find yourself off balance when you're competing by yourself against the rest of the field and more at ease when you're competing with a partner?
(Robison) They each have their advantages. When I fish in team events it's always me and my dad and I love having that connection with him and that time with him on the water. At the same time, when I fish in tournaments where I'm competing as an individual with a random co-angler I am free to go and do whatever I want, wherever I want. I do all the preparation, studying, and pregaming.
Pictured: Brian's dad, Jimmy Robison
(Root) You mention preparation. Does your experience as an elite defensive end in the National Football League studying tape, game plans, and opponents give you an advantage because you're accustomed to putting in that level of work that maybe other guys aren't or don't have the mindset for?
(Robison) Well for sure I'm no stranger to it. I can't speak for other guys and how much time they spend studying maps or lake reports or weather forecasts and things like that, but I would say that I am absolutely programmed to be conditioned to that level of preparation where someone else might not be and have to struggle to do it to that level.
(Root) How massive is your wingspan?
(Robison Laughing) I'm not exactly sure...
(Root) Because I gotta tell you man, if I'm standing on the back of your boat, and you're really trying to get some distance on a jerkbait, I might be paying a little bit more attention and hoping I'm not feeling a breeze go by.
(Robison) I have had some close calls, but thankfully I haven't stuck anybody yet!
(Root) Does that encourage your dad to fish off the front with you?
(Robison) Man I actually wish he'd spend more time up front, but he's usually pretty content to sit back and work his Texas Rig off the back. We complement each other very well. I have tremendous ADD when I'm fishing. I want to work fast.
(Root) You're a power-fishermen?
(Robison) I'm working on becoming more versatile, but yeah you could say I feel most confident when I'm power fishing. Where as my dad, he can sit and pick apart a patch of grass for hours. I can't. I gotta go. I think that dichotomy helps to balance us out and make us a better team.
(Root) Your dad is one of the nicest guys. When we met a year ago I could not get over how grounded you are, how approachable you are to your fans. Clearly a lot of credit for that has to go to your parents, was there any additional influence on you that helped instill that in you?
(Robison) My parents are absolutely amazing, no doubt. My entire family has been tremendous. My beautiful wife, our kids, her family. I also had great leaders in the Minnesota organization that stepped up and really showed me how to be an athlete of character in this league, and that's helped me an incredible amount.
(Root) Tell me about the Sack Dance. A couple guys have tried to duplicate it, but you do it better than anyone.
(Robison) That's my hookset! Leanin into them big fish.
(Root) What would you say is your favorite sack of all time?
(Robison) My rookie season I sacked Brett Favre when we were playing Green Bay. I actually get to say that I am the last Minnesota Viking to sack Brett.
(Root) Then a couple seasons later you're playing with him. What was that like?
(Robison) Brett is amazing. To this day I would follow him into battle anywhere. Matt Cassel is another one who has that leader quality, as does Teddy Bridgewater. I think Teddy's going to be a prolific quarterback in this league. But no doubt, playing with Brett and seeing what he was able to do on the field was an incredible experience.
(Root) What do you consider to be your home lake? You live in Minnesota during the season, but then you head back to your home state of Texas.
(Robison) My home lake would be Lake Conroe. It's about 21,000 acres of prime Largemouth fishing in Texas.
(Root) Is there good smallmouth fishing in Texas or is that the sort of thing you have to get your fill of when you're in Minnesota or travelling?
(Robison) Personally I haven't done any smallmouth fishing in Texas. I've heard there are a couple of good places. The problem with fishing in Minnesota is that there's really not much of any time for that. Between practice, the gym, watching film, studying, there's not much time left to get out on the water. When I do get a chance, the fishing is spectacular!
(Root) We all get help, whether it's a new body of water or even one we're familiar with but for whatever reason it's like we just can't seem to figure out what the fish are doing. Who has helped you, and does that same willingness to help translate to your career in football where guys either on your team or that you know from across the league give you tips on a particular QB or offensive lineman?
(Robison) There are absolutely guys like that who I've reached out to for help on the lake. Cliff Crochet is one of those guys that I can call. Believe it or not KVD was a huge help to me at a tournament I was fishing in and was just really stumped. He told me what he was looking for in terms of a particular area of depth and structure that helped me unlock the key to what the fish were doing. In football it's totally different because you got lots of guys looking over their shoulder, and not wanting to share info that could lead to that guy taking their job. Our team, our defense, and Vikings lockerroom is 100% committed to the team and guys are always trying to help each other because they understand that the better we do as individuals, the better we do as a team. But it's funny, you think guys are stingy with their fishing spots, football is whole new level of secrecy!
(Root) Speaking of guys helping out and being a part of the team, in looking ahead to Hartwell, I'm just gonna go on the record right now and say that Mercer needs to step up, take one for the team, throw on the pads, and get sacked one time. I know there was a little talk about that last year and it got shut down. I know you're down.
(Robison Laughing) I'm definitely down, but I don't know if Dave is. We'll see. I've been away from the field for a little while now after not making the playoffs and I'm itchin to put a hit on somebody too!
(Root) What's in store for you in 2015?
(Robison) Man I'm gonna be working with some great companies on the water and I've already started to dish the info on that on my twitter account, @Brian_Robison, but basically I'm still drivin my Ranger, pushing my E Happy to announce that I'll be working with@trokarhooks by @eagleclawfish in 2015. The sharpest, strongest hooks allow for more penetration (no pun intended). You'll have to keep up with me on Twitter to hear the rest! #rulethewater #trokar