KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oh, it hurts, sure, but not like three broken ribs. The Legend Of Johnny Robinson says Johnny Rob had a trainer with the New Orleans Saints shoot him up with Novocaine before Super Bowl IV, from his spine all the way over to his rib cage.
At least three ribs were cracked, a souvenir from the old American Football League championship game. The pain got to the point where he’d needed sleeping pills just to conk out every night.
“We were like two old ladies trying to get some sleep,” the Kansas City Chiefs safety told the UPI back in 1970.
Restless and numb, Johnny Rob picked a Minnesota pass and recovered a fumble. The Chiefs rolled, 23-7.
Think about that.
Three broken ribs.
If that doesn’t belong on a Mount Rushmore, what does?
“I follow the Chiefs, and you know, I just hope that they get back to the Super Bowl one of these days,” Robinson, now 74 years young, says from his Louisiana office. “It looks like Kansas City is a lost franchise down there … but you know, they had a lot of good players in the era that I played (in).”
A couple of them — quarterback Len Dawson and linebacker Willie Lanier — were among the four individuals Pro Football Talk recently selected for the franchise’s personal Mount Rushmore, along with Robinson’s coach from 1960-71, Hank Stram, and linebacker Derrick Thomas.
And let’s be clear: It’s a teensy club, the elite of the elite, and you can’t argue against any of the above. But any Chiefs Rushmore without founder Lamar Hunt, who practically invented the AFL and Super Bowl as we know it, is woefully incomplete. And where’s the love for ol’ No. 42?
“If you’re asking me whether I should be in it or not, I don’t know,” says Robinson, a seven-time selection for All-AFL or Pro Bowl honors. “I’ve been out of football for 40 years.”
Three broken ribs.
Sticks in your head, doesn’t it?
So does this number: 35-1-1.
Over 10 seasons — 1962-71 — after he’d made the switch from halfback/flanker to safety, Robinson accounted for at least one interception in 37 different games, or a clip of nearly four per year.
The Texans/Chiefs went 35-1-1 in those tilts.
A former first-round pick out of LSU, Robinson collected 57 picks over his career; the safety to which he is most often compared, Larry Wilson, had 52. Wilson entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. Robinson was a finalist for six years between 1980-86, but never made the final cut.
When the newest class lands in Canton’s warm embrace next month, the former Chiefs defensive back knows he’ll remain on the outside looking in.
“I don’t have any objections; I was in the top 15 when I first went in (the voting process),” Robinson says now. “But I think that everybody that’s gone in before me and after me, I think they should have been there. I find (no problem) there. But I think my record, if they go on the record of interceptions and different things, I think I’m qualified to go in.
“Whether I’m going to make it or not, I just don’t know. I’m 74 years old and so, I think my time has passed. They’re really not looking at me.”
They should. His career interceptions rank second in Chiefs history. Pro-Football-Reference.com rates him as the third-most valuable player in club history, according to career Approximate Value (140 points) after linebacker Bobby Bell (149) and quarterback Dawson (144).
For those who scoff at Robinson’s AFL pedigree, bear 1970 in mind: In the first season after the NFL-AFL merger, the veteran defensive back, now 32, tied a personal high with 10 picks. He racked up four more the next year.
And did we mention the three broken ribs?
“I would like to be in the Hall of Fame, it would be a great honor,” Robinson says. “But my personal feeling is that I’m not going to make it.”
At any rate, he isn’t waiting around the phone to finally ring. Johnny Rob has devoted the winter of his days to running a youth home for troubled boys in Monroe, La. He notes that they’re looking after 47 kids now, 24 hours a day.
“So it doesn’t give you much time to relax,” Robinson says.
In the last decade, he’s overcome lymphoma, thyroid cancer and a stroke. His body keeps failing him, piece by piece. But his spirit won’t quit.
“Everything’s going real well, and the Chiefs have been good to me,” Robinson says. “And I would like to be back one more time.”
He’s a big Andy Reid fan (“They’ve got a good coach, it seems like he’s a players’ coach,” Robinson says) and remains hopeful that the current regime can steer clear of icebergs.
“I can tell you, I was kind of worried about what was going on up there,” Robinson says. “I got an inkling of what was happening up there, and I don’t think you can play football with the situation they had up there with (the old) coaching staff … but I hope everything’s OK, now, because I think it’s about time for the Chiefs to come back into their own.”
It’s about time for Johnny Rob, too. Past time, now that you mention it.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com