Shortly after joining the Packers in 1996, safety Eugene Robinson sat down at a Washington Street sports bar in Green Bay. After a television announced the Packers had traded George Teague -- the man Robinson would replace -- for a draft choice, a fan sitting beside the new safety cursed the roster move.
Robinson then revealed his identity.
"Are you any good?" the fan asked.
Robinson's play in 1996 answered that question with an emphatic yes. He tied for second in the NFC with six interceptions and finished fourth on the Packers with 82 tackles. During Super Bowl XXXI, he led the team with nine total tackles. His coverage ability complemented an already talented secondary, allowing strong safety LeRoy Butler to shoot the gaps on blitzes while providing over-the-top help to young cornerbacks Doug Evans, Craig Newsome and Tyrone Williams.
"It worked out pretty well," Robinson said. "We had an absolute crew. It was easy to make plays in that scenario."
A 12-year veteran at the time, he also served as an emotional and spiritual leader for the defense. In the third quarter of the Super Bowl, an exhausted Reggie White breathed deeply.
"Geno," White told Robinson, "I'm tired. I feel like I just can't get off. I feel like I'm trying too hard."
Robinson then huddled on the sideline with White, leading the Minister of Defense in prayer. The veteran safety recited Isaiah 40:31: Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
White became rejuvenated. He collected two sacks with less than three minutes to go in the third quarter and racked up his third sack to seal the game with less than two minutes left in the fourth.
Robinson, 42, continues to motivate athletes, but he provides those lessons to a much younger set. Since 2001 he has coached at Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High School. The 1,000-student, K-12 school integrates biblical principles into its academic program. Robinson serves as the varsity football offensive coordinator, assistant wrestling coach (of the 2006 conference champions) and assistant track coach for the Knights. He wrestled and played football collegiately at Colgate. Robinson lettered in baseball instead of track but applied lessons he learned in the NFL to his running instruction.
Although he finds improving the skills of young men rewarding, he accepted the jobs coaching the Knights to spend more time with his children.
"It allowed me to be closer to them," Robinson said.
Brandon, 16, is a sophomore at the school while Brittany, 18, a former Knight, now attends Clemson. Eugene has coached Brandon since his early days in youth sports, and Brandon asked him to accept the high school coaching jobs.
Eugene remains actively involved on the professional sports level as well, working as the color commentator on the Carolina Panthers' radio broadcasts since 2002.
"I like being able to tell you the technical aspects and make it fun," Robinson said.
Robinson now allies himself more with the Panthers - with whom he played the last year of his career - than the teams he previously played for, including the Packers, Seattle Seahawks or Atlanta Falcons.
"I live vicariously through the Panthers now," Robinson said.
That connection to the Panthers is understandable. He receives his paycheck from them, interviews their players in the locker room and travels to road games on the team charter airplane. But whenever the Packers play the Panthers (like they did on Oct. 3, 2005), Robinson makes an effort to hang out with his former teammates like William Henderson and Brett Favre on the playing field before the game.
"I go down and see these old guys," he said. "That's fun."
Robinson made those friendly connections because of a shrewd move by former General Manager Ron Wolf. On June 27, 1996, Wolf sent defensive end Matt LaBounty to the Seahawks in exchange for Robinson's services. Robinson, already friends with White from playing against him and attending various Christian events together, was excited by the Packers' potential. But the team's skill exceeded his expectations.
"I knew they had a solid crew," Robinson said. "When I got there, boy, was I pleasantly surprised that they were even better than what I thought."
They turned out to be the best team in the NFL.