It must be strange, being a gifted athlete, coach, and trainer. To be involved in sports at one of the highest possible levels, and to see the fruits of your labor showcased on football fields across the country, on Saturdays and Sundays. Even as you watch the men you’ve trained go off to win NFL MVP awards and Super Bowls.
And yet, you’re still only the second most-famous David Robinson in Texas.
That’s the case for David Robinson – no, not the 7’1″ San Antonio Spurs Hall of Famer. We’re talking about David Robinson the trainer and coach. Robinson runs D-Rob Sports & Fitness Training, his personal training and athlete-shaping service that is based in DeSoto, Texas, right outside of Dallas. Robinson – a former wide receiver at the University of Oklahoma in the early 2000s – has made a name for himself by becoming a world-class coach and trainer, specializing in helping young football players get recruited to Division 1 schools, and enter the NFL Draft.
In fact, Robinson’s so effective that almost everyone is familiar with his clients, which include big-name NFL stars like Emmanuel Sanders of the Denver Broncos, Reuben Randle of the New York Giants, and superstar running back Adrian Petersen of the Minnesota Vikings.
David Robinson and football players | Twitter: @drobsports1
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg – NFL teams are littered with current and former clients of Robinson’s and the ranks are about to get even bigger. With the NFL draft approaching, a slew of fresh talent is set to hit the field on Sundays next fall thanks, in part, to Robinson’s efforts. Those include All-American talents like Rashard Higgins of Colorado State, Sterling Shepherd of Oklahoma, Keyariss Garrett of Tulsa, and Josh Doctson of TCU.
Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins | Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson | Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Robinson’s gift for training world-class athletes wasn’t always apparent, however. He never really intended to get into coaching and training, though he’s clearly found his calling. And his philosophy goes much further than his football-related clients – people are soliciting his help for any number of fitness goals, including simple weight loss.
And more so than that, Robinson’s approach to training and coaching can be applied to many other aspects of our lives, including personal and career development.
So, what is that philosophy exactly? And how did Robinson make it from the practice fields of Norman, Oklahoma back home to Dallas, and find his calling? He was kind enough to speak with The Cheat Sheet, and run us through the drill.
On The Gridiron
The Cheat Sheet: Where are you from, and what experience do you yourself have as an athlete?
David Robinson: I played for the University of Oklahoma from 2002 until 2006, I played wide receiver there. I’m originally from Dallas, Texas.
Coach (Darrell) Wyatt – he recruited me to OU, he was a receivers coach. He was about my height, and I’m a shorter guy. So I really felt the vibe from OU when he recruited me. That’s what made me want to go there. At the time, they were throwing the ball a lot, they had a pass-heavy offense. They had just won the national championship as well, against Florida State.
After, I went up to (the University of South Dakota) to get my Master’s. My degree is in health and sports sciences, and my Master’s degree is in kinesiology.
TCS: You mentioned you were small for a wide receiver. How did you manage to overcome that?
Robinson: Right. I had to know how to get open, to use that to my advantage. The one way I managed to separate myself was that I was a very smart route-runner. I knew I couldn’t use my size to my advantage, so I had to create ways to create extra degrees of separation, by being a good actor with my route-running.
That’s what really made me effective. Just being a student of the game, and making every route look the same: like I’m going deep.
TCS: When did you realize that was your biggest advantage?
Robinson: When I was coming up in middle school, my cousin was the number one or two quarterback in the nation, Casey Printers. I used to hang around him, he used to stay with me, he went to DeSoto High School. So, I was getting a lot of extra, intense knowledge when I was in the sixth and seventh grade, before I even entered high school. I just took those principles, and the things I learned and it made me that much more advanced.
TCS: Given all of your success, how much do you attribute to simple hard work?
Robinson: I think – and what I instill in a lot of my athletes to get over the hump – it was my work ethic. I was fast, I was really quick, but I wasn’t the biggest. I wasn’t the strongest. I always had to do extra after school, after practice. When people used to go home and take showers, I stayed out there on the football field for 45 minutes, running routes, catching balls, because I knew that my size was going to be a factor when schools came to recruit me. But nothing can outweigh my work ethic, and my heart.
So, that’s what I really try to instill into my kids: always do extra, always do more. That will turn you into an All-American, or Hall of Fame-type receiver. Never be satisfied.
TCS: What is your best memory from your playing days?
Robinson: Probably my junior year in high school, when I was at DeSoto. I had two punt returns for touchdowns, I was a really good return specialist. I also had four catches for 150 yards, and a touchdown. So, that was a pretty big game for me.
In college? It was when we played Texas Tech – it was my first game. I was a redshirt freshman, backing up Mark Clayton. That’s another thing that really helped my game. And when I was a freshman at Oklahoma, in the meeting room I was sitting behind four first-day draft picks. But that Texas Tech game was the first time I got on the field and was able to show the coaches what I could do. It was a big moment for me.
David Robinson (center) with Adrian Peterson | Instagram: d.robalwaysopen
A Video Introduction to Coach Rob, with NFL Receiver Rueben Randle
TCS: How did your football career pan out after college?
Robinson: I was in training camp with the Buffalo Bills for a little bit, and then I went up to Canada, and played with the Edmonton Eskimos (of the Canadian Football League). The end of my career was in practice, I broke my ankle. I just never bounced back, it was never the same.
Then, I moved back to Dallas, where I was originally from.
TCS: How did you move from a career as a professional athlete to starting your own training and coaching firm?
Robinson: I ended up – I was a substitute teacher at Kimball High School. On the side, I would train their athletes, the receivers. I was just doing it for free – I wasn’t charging them, just training. A little while later, my business partner (Clay Mack) and I hooked up, and a few weeks after that we had about 60 kids coming out. Word of mouth just picked up.
We looked around, and we had like 50 or 60 kids out there. They were from all over, all over the city. So we started training, trying to get some extra work in. That’s when we decided that we could turn this thing into a business.
I was planning on being a teacher, but then I got into training. It grew from that, and I started training the top wide receivers in the country. I’ve been doing it for eight years, and have put over 100 kids – wide receivers, specifically – into Division 1 colleges.
TCS: What do you look for in a potential client?
Robinson: My door is wide open. I like grooming, and instilling confidence, and work ethic. Because when I see a kid who really wants it, and has the drive and work ethic, I’ll get you in the game. That’s what I did with Reshard (Higgins) – I had no idea he would end up being the top receiver in the country, and now he’s a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (award for the country’s top receiver), and will probably end up being a third or fourth-round draft pick.
I like stories like that. You don’t need to come to me already having had established a name – I’ll take ’em. Whether they have no name, or they’re a big name.
“When I see a kid who really wants it, and has the drive and work ethic, I’ll get you in the game.”
David Robinson (center) with Adrian Peterson | Instagram: d.robalwaysopen
David Robinson with client Lynx Hawthorne, Baylor WR | Instagram: d.robalwaysopen
Coach Rob’s Philosophy
TCS: What do these young men have that separates them from the pack?
Robinson: With wide receivers – they’re going to have mood swings, they’re going to be prima donnas. You’re going to have some that want to block, some that don’t. They’re going to want to be the center of attention. So, when you find a receiver who doesn’t care about any of that, and cares about the craft and the work ethic and the grind? That wide-out’s special. That’s what I look for.
TCS: How do you deal with prima donnas, or guys with a bad attitude?
Robinson: I’m real firm. I don’t actually consider myself a trainer – Emmanuel Sanders (of the Denver Broncos) once said, “Man, working with you? You’re going to take me to the Pro Bowl every year because you’re constantly on my ass. You’re a stickler about everything.”
So, when you have guys who are used to having everyone patting them on the back – I don’t care how much money you make, or how many stars you have. I’m looking at the technique. At the fundamentals. I think that’s why a lot of guys come to me. Because I’m really focused on the craft.
TCS: You’re handling young men at a time in which their lives are changing rapidly. What do you teach them about how to handle it?
Robinson: All of my guys – in high school, college, and the NFL – I give them some advice when people start calling, the agents, advertisers, etc. I have a bit of a “big brother” program. When my guys see something funny, they can always give me a call or text me, and I can lead them away from it. I do that with every single last one of my kids.
TCS: For those of us who aren’t athletes, what can we draw from your philosophy that will give us an advantage in our every day lives?
Robinson: Attitude. Work ethic. Technique.
David Robinson with NFL buddies | Instagram: d.robalwaysopen
“Attitude. Work ethic. Technique.”
How To Follow Coach Rob
You can get in touch with Robinson, or check out all of the services he offers at the D-Rob Sports & Fitness Training main website. His services include helping athletes reach their peak ability and potential, personal training, and recruiting assistance. He does much more than just train NFL-caliber wide receivers – he’s willing to work with anyone, no matter their fitness goals. He operates out of DeSoto, Texas, in the Dallas area.