ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A’Shawn Robinson was drafted by the Detroit Lions on Friday night, but had it not been for some early pushing from his mother, he might not have even made it on to a high school football field.
Robinson started playing football at age 4, and early on, he was a running back playing with his older brother, Andre. Then one day, he was flipped -- something that happens to running backs from time to time.
So, Robinson had enough.
“My mom made me keep playing,” Robinson said shortly after being drafted by the Lions. “And I just played defense strictly there, which I loved playing defense, so it bettered me.”
Sort of. Robinson played defense the rest of his career, although actually finding a place to play was a bit of a struggle. Robinson said his mother, Abigail, had to continually show up at his football games to provide his birth certificate because he was so much bigger and appeared to be so much older than his actual age.
It caused him to miss some games when she couldn’t show, to the point where she had to change her work schedule to show up so he could play. They moved him from league to league for a few years before they decided it was “too much of a hassle” and just had him play with kids three or four years older than him.
He was 9 years old.
So being called old is nothing new for Robinson, who turned 21 years old last month. He has always looked older than he is. He has always heard it as well, both in college and even at the NFL combine, when he explained that he grew his beard because he started going bald when he got to college. So, he shaved his head and grew his beard.
Still, he said people would tell him he looked double his age.
“It’s funny, you know,” Robinson said. “They always joke around and call me 'old man' and stuff. But I just take it how it is.
“Some people have that problem, looking older than what they are.”
It’s worked for Robinson so far. He became one of the better defensive tackles in college football last season and a dominant run-stopper. He was projected, for a while, to be a first-round pick, but he fell into the second round instead.
It appeared to work out for him, though, since he ended up in a place he thought worked well with his skills -- Detroit and its aggressive pressure style with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
“He’s fiery, just like Coach Bo [Davis],” Robinson said of Kocurek. “That’s a guy I’d love to play for and I was telling my mom that when I was taking my visits and stuff when I first met him and she was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, everything will play its course.’
“So when I met him, I was like, ‘Yeah, this guy, I like this coach a lot.’"
And the Lions can thank his mom for keeping him in football.