Here’s to you, Michael Robinson. We love you more than you can know.
Thanks for letting us in on what goes on inside an NFL locker room. Thanks again for clueing us in on what happens on team planes.
Thank you for satisfying our hunger for more than just the canned postgame comments. After all, how many “We’re just trying to take it one game at a time,” or “we’re leaving it all on the fields,” are we expected to digest?
The Seahawks fullback is breaking the mold with his behind-the-scenes Internet series called “The Real Rob Report,” which offers a glimpse inside the “small, sacred place, which is the locker room.” What started out as a hobby during Robinson’s rookie season in San Francisco in 2006, has evolved into must-see TV for Seahawks fans.
“We wear helmets,” Robinson told FOXSports.com in a telephone interview. “People don’t really get to see [NFL players’] personalities unless you’re a quarterback or a superstar. But there are 52 other guys on a team, who have all different types of personalities.”
While the players have some down time between film study and practice, the 10-year veteran whips out the camera and films the hijinks and goings-on in the locker room. Whether it’s wide receiver Jermaine Kearse attempting to freestyle, guard John Moffitt offering up his words of wisdom or Marshawn Lynch consistently ignoring the camera, the show is raw, fun and grants an unparalleled amount of access.
Pretty soon, you could start seeing more of the same across the league, if Robinson gets his way.
“I’m supposed to meet with the [NFLPA] in July,” said Robinson, who hopes by 2014 to have as many types of the shows in all NFL locker rooms. “I’ve talked to [NFLPA Executive Director] DeMaurice Smith a little bit and this has been an idea he has had, trying to find a way to get a player’s camera in the locker room in a responsible way.”
Are we on the ground floor of something huge? Maybe … but first, let’s look back at how it began.
During Robinson’s first year with the 49ers, he approached the team’s public relations department about doing something in front of the camera. It seems he wanted to put his degrees in advertising/public relations and journalism from Penn State to good use.
“They called it the Rookie Report and they would send a PR guy down with a camera and I would just go from locker to locker and I’d crack jokes and see what was going on. They would give me the topics for the week.”
The Rookie Report turned into the Robinson Report the following season and things remained hunky-dory until he was released by the 49ers in 2010.
Robinson couldn’t take his 49ers show with him when he signed with Seattle, obviously, so things stayed quiet until 2011.
That’s when the NFL lockout hit, which left many players sitting around with nothing to do.
So, he picked up a camera and started interviewing players to document what they were doing during their time. He christened the show “The Real Rob Report” and he began posting his items on YouTube. When the lockout was eventually lifted, Robinson had an epiphany.
“One day I was sitting in my locker with my camera and a guy told me to turn it on and they just started getting in front of the camera and talking,” Robinson said. “The concept is it being the behind-the-scenes of the National Football League. That was my big picture thinking.”
MAKING IT WORK
So, what did head coach Pete Carroll think of his fullback’s new-fangled idea?
“At first, I can’t lie Pete [Carroll] had some skepticism about it,” Robinson said. He pulled me aside after one practice and said, ‘Mike, is this gonna get in the way of you being the best fullback, football player you can be?’ And I straight up told him, ‘No. It’s something that I’m interested in and I think that every player should have other interests other than football especially in the offseason.’
“As time went on Pete and [general manager] John [Schneider] figured out that I’m not into making guys or the team look bad. They knew I was coming from a good place.”
Each week during the season, Robinson, with the help of his friend and producer Brandon Froemming, films, edits, produces and publishes a webisode.
Robinson takes the lead in the beginning, shooting footage throughout the week. Then on the Thursday before a game, he’ll overnight the footage to Froemming, who will spend Friday putting the webisode together.
Robinson and Froemming will go back and forth, discussing what footage to cut or keep.
“I tell Brandon, ‘look we can’t have that in the background, somebody’s naked. Cut that out,’ or ‘you missed a curse word here,’ or something like that.”
Then, depending on how the editing process goes, the video is released on Friday night or Saturday morning.
So, has shooting the players been a tricky task?
“Back in 2011, some guys were like, ‘Uhh … I don’t know.’ Now they’re telling me, ‘Hey Mike, pull the camera out, pull the camera out.’”
Now, the team has embraced the show and actually plays to the camera. Players like Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Lynch have developed their own characters. It’s a product of their personalities and it has served to build a sense of trust with the fan.
But how deep will Robinson allow the access to go? Will he show his players in a negative light? No, he won’t allow himself to go that way.
“I try to tell players in the locker room, ‘We can control our message. We can have our own voice.’ A lot of times when someone says something controversial, I won’t put it in. Or I’ll put it in and show them before I release the video and ask, ‘Is this what you want to go out?’”
Which is a far cry from the gotcha factor that goes into many facets of sports television.
“For example, with Bruce Irvin. I have some video of him after he got handed down his suspension [for a PED violation]. Well, I’m not interested in that. He gets enough questions about that. I want to know just what’s going on with Bruce Irvin? How is he trying to get back? What are some of his interests outside of football.”
It all speaks to trust within the Seahawks family.
1. The term “behind the scenes” doesn’t do the Real Rob Report justice. One of the more revealing scenes from last season was when offensive guard Breno Giacomini was filmed talking to the team’s equipment staff about which length of cleats to wear for the NFC Divisional Game against the Washington Redskins. Of course, you recall the terrible turf FedEXField is played on, but Giacomini actually said that Redskins guard Tyler Polumbus, who was his former teammate, gave him a tip on which cleats to wear. That might not seem like a big deal but every detail, especially in an NFL playoff game, is magnified to the millionth degree.
2. John Moffitt’s Words of Wisdom is a segment in virtually every episode of “The Real Rob Report.” Now, John Moffitt is someone you wouldn’t know, since he’s a backup offensive lineman. However, he is arguably the scene-stealing star every week. His hilarious views on everything from back-hair trimming to what Golden Tate should name his children will have you smiling.
3. Messin’ with Marshawn: Every week, Michael Robinson tries to get Marshawn Lynch, the man he blocks for every Sunday, to talk on camera. However, “Beast Mode” makes a point of clamming up and not speaking. One day, they’ll get him to crack.
4. Who was on the ground floor of the Russell Wilson phenomenon? That’s right, “The Real Rob Report.” From Week 1, every Wilson appearance on camera was greeted by Robinson saying “Russell Wilson sighting!” With each week and each sighting, you began to really see and appreciate Wilson’s cheerfulness and true leadership develop. He even does an impression of Pete Carroll. Future politician, folks.
“It’s very interesting to see the dynamic of guys, especially through a whole season,” Robinson said. “If you look back at last year, it really documented each week of our season.
“It’s pretty cool when you look back at it.”
As far as the Seahawks are concerned, the team couldn’t be happier with Robinson’s work.
“[We’re] thrilled with the work that Michael has done with the Real Rob Report, he gives a real voice to the locker room. We made a decision early on to move it to our website. Bottom line, it’s compelling creative content,” the team said in a statement to FOXSports.com.
WHAT IS AHEAD?
Robinson’s show has grown to the point where player agents are calling to get their clients featured on “The Real Rob Report.”
“I don’t really look at it as a sports show; I look at it as a lifestyle type of show because I’m trying to show the fans a different type of perspective.
“People say it’s my show, but it’s really not my show. It’s the players’ show. You very rarely see me on camera.”
And as far as his upcoming meetings with the NFLPA to hopefully spread “The Real Rob Report” to every team in the league?
“The conversations are going well,” Robinson said. “It sounds like they like the idea, but until I meet with them in July and actually go out to D.C. and have a face-to-face and give them presentation, I don’t know where it will go.”
Whether it belongs to Robinson, the players or eventually the entire league: We’re watching and smiling.