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Redemption Song

For some reason, the media as a whole focuses on the disastrous, relegating feel-good stories to the backpage. The NFL media is no different. We hear, on what seems like a daily basis, stories of players getting caught driving drunk, getting into scrapes with significant others, or failing drug tests. And if a player is a repeat offender, well, that sends reporters into a frenzy. While this isn't always bad -- if only Leonard Little's two DUIs (one of which killed another motorist) got as much attention as Barbaro's broken leg -- always tilting the balance towards the negative isn't fair to the public or the players. It assumes that people can't change, and convinces the public of this as well. Once a criminal, always a criminal. Take Koren Robinson, for example. When word got out that he'd recently re-admitted himself into rehab, the media began printing "RELAPSE! RELAPSE!" headlines like "Dewey defeats Truman," without bothering to contact Robinson or the Vikings to get the real information. This is unfortunate for Robinson, because the facts of his recent stint in rehab are far different than the gory details reporters were hoping to get to break. He's regained a firm hold on his life, and he deserves some credit for it.


When the Seahawks drafted Robinson 9th overall in the 2001 draft, fans in the Northwest were hoping he'd be Seattle's best receiver since Hall of Famer Steve Largent, and in 2002 he became only the second Seahawks receiver (since Largent) to top 1,200 yards. But problems with discipline, motivation, and most notably alcohol tempered Robinson's electric skillset over the following three years. His numbers took a dive, the closest he came to sniffing 1,000 yards was in 2003 when he caught for 896, and he seemed poised to portray great talent gone bad. His attitude seemed to spread and malign the rest of the Seahawks talented core of receivers, and by the time Seattle released him in the 2005 offseason following a drunk-driving incident, his problem with alcohol was obviously well-known.

But here's the refreshing part, the part that sometimes get lost among stories of repeatedly law-defying athletes: Robinson fought his demons, and so far he's winning. The same offseason he found himself unemployed, Robinson hit rock-bottom and entered a 28-day rehab program, determined to get himself clean and prove himself to another team. He didn't want to be another tale of lost potential. He got his chance with the Vikings, who saw something change in Koren's attitude that to them seemed worth the minor cash investment. What they wound up getting was a shining example of high reward -- Robinson made the Pro Bowl last year as a kick returner, tallying over 1,200 yards and a touchdown on returns, and adding another dimension to the Vikings' pass attack with 347 yards and another touch. What's most impressive is the environment he did it in -- we all know the various stories that emanated from the Minnesota locker room last year. Suffice it to say, it wasn't the ideal environment for a recovering addict to work in, but Robinson persevered. In fact, he was voted by his teammates last year to win the Ed Block Courage award. He was also rewarded by the Vikings with a new deal, a three-year investment for $12.7M with $5.5M in gauranteed money that shows the team's faith in Robinson's continued perseverance. When focused, he's always had the skills to rank among the league's best, and he seems to have finally grown up.

Oh, that recent trip back to rehab? Turns out it was just Robinson being proactive, attending relapse prevention courses that help him keep things in perspective before he enters the grueling gauntlet of another NFL season. With all of the awareness of a grown man with a firm grip on his demons, Robinson acknowledged that recovery isn't a year-long process. It lasts a lifetime, and takes constant work to stay on top of. About the recent refreshers, Robinson said:

I just want to make sure I'm good for the season before I put myself back in that lifestyle. In the NFL, when you lose, you feel real down and when you win, there's a lot of celebrating. I'm just making sure I'm bulletproof and being proactive. They help him reiterate stuff so that it's fresh in my mind. I just use that so I won't put myself in predicaments that would be bad situations.

We were impressed, albeit admittedly a little skeptical, to see Robinson's drastic turnaround last year. But this recent story cements him as a favorite of ours. He's entering this year as the Viking's #1 receiver, and with a responsible quarterback who can capably get the ball to his receivers, we wouldn't be surprised to see Koren top 1,000 yards again. Finally on top of his life, and maybe the NFL in the near future, Koren Robinson serves as a shining example. Everyone fucks up. Only the best amend those mistakes.