Aldrick Robinson wakes up around 6 a.m. each day to grab a quick breakfast before he heads to the training camp facility of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, California.
Neither the alarm, daily routine or current position on the depth chart are anything new for the eighth-year NFL veteran and 2007 Waxahachie graduate who once ran a 4.43 at the NFL combine following his collegiate career at Southern Methodist University.
Yes, speedster Aldrick Robinson, better known in his hometown as “Lil’ A” or “Al Cow,” is officially a polished and humbled veteran wide receiver in the National Football League. And loving every minute of it.
By 7 a.m., Robinson is in the weight room, putting in the off-the-field work that will hopefully translate into more separation from defensive backs on the field — or maybe even a few more pocket strikes on the bowling lanes.
“Usually after my lift I have a little downtime before meetings, so that is usually when I come back [to the locker room] and catch up on my phone, you know, text everyone who has been texting me throughout the day because I am in Cali, so I’m a little behind,” Robinson explains of his morning routine. “So I catch up with as much as I can, and then I go into meetings.”
Robinson said those four daily meetings — with special teams, the wide receivers group, team, and offense — typically run between 30 minutes to one hour. He explained, “At the beginning of camp, it is all 'install' with coaches putting in the playbook and everyone learning the plays. After that, it’s film. We watch practice to go over what we did wrong and what we can correct.”
A few days ago, part of those meetings could’ve included a one-on-one against All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who signed with the 49ers in the offseason after the Seattle Seahawks released him. In a video posted to Twitter by Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) on July 29, Robinson is seen running a crisp dig route and begin to separate, only to have Sherman grab ahold of him around the waist and be flagged for pass interference.
“I ran a good route on him,” chuckled Robinson as he humbly recalled the play. “It’s all just a competition, man. We are all just out here trying to get better. We usually don’t look at the one-on-ones during meetings. Really, we look at them on our own. They point out some of them [during film sessions] but for the most part, we look at them on our own, so I didn’t get to see that with the whole group.”
Once on the field for training camp, Robinson knows he is not guaranteed a spot on the active 53-man roster each Sunday. It’s not a new mindset either. He explained the coaching staff — led by head coach Kyle Shanahan who was the offensive coordinator in Washington when Robinson was drafted in the sixth round by the Redskins and also in Atlanta when he appeared in Super Bowl LI (2017) as a member of the Atlanta Falcons — know his talents.
"They have been around me — these coaches and this staff — for years. They already know what I am capable of doing,” he explained. “They just want to see how efficient I can be and how consistent I can be and that is what I have to do. I have to come out here, and every day I have to attack it. I have to attack it every day and just put my best stuff out there on tape.”
He added, “I came into this league as a sixth-round draft pick, and then I was on the practice squad my first year, so I have always had a little chip on my shoulder. It has never been certain for me. I have attacked every camp as a position battle, and it has been for me. I’ve never had a clear-cut, for sure spot on any roster in all of my years of football. I have always had to compete. You get used to it, and you know that if you just put your best foot forward that it’ll all play out the way it is supposed to play out.”
Football is not the only way Robinson passes the time in Santa Clara, either. Far from it in fact.
Robinson contends he is “pretty good” at bowling and the only thing holding him back from a career on the Professional Bowlers Association tour is, well, his football career. He often posts scores well north of 200 — and frequently over 250 — on his Instagram account.
“If I wasn’t in the NFL, I’d probably be on the PBA right now,” Robinson boasted. “But, right now, I usually just go once a week on off days. I’m actually in two leagues and am holding a pretty high average in both of those.
“I actually take bowling seriously. It’s a hobby of mine, but I am actually good at it. I am a competitor, so at the end of the day, I want to win and see how far I can go at this activity. Besides the fact that I don’t practice very much, it’s going pretty good.”
The love for the lanes began while Robinson was playing for the Washington Redskins, his first NFL team. A group of players hit the nearest alley, bought their own bowling balls, and the love was born.
“We just started bowling a lot, and I just kept bowling,” Robinson said. “Then, when I came back to Dallas, my cousin was actually a bowler also, so we just took it from there and it became a little more serious.”
He even hinted at potentially starting a charity of some sort during the next offseason, maybe even organizing a bowling tournament but definitely something to benefit children.
And speaking of children, it is his son, Aldrick Robinson Jr, that has served as the source of inspiration and energy for the elder while he continues to chase NFL success.
“He just gives [life] a true meaning. Having a son, that is kind of something that is never going to go away, and you always have to be a role model for your son. I always make sure that he is taken care of," Robinson said. "Day in and day out I do things generated by him because he gives me energy just by him living. Ever since he was born, I have just seen him as that spiritual energy that I needed.”
At the end of the day, it does all come back to football for Robinson, who enters the season with 69 career receptions for 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns. He will also put his talents on display against the hometown Dallas Cowboys in preseason game NO. 1 at 9 p.m. Thursday. The game can be watched on the NFL Network.
The upcoming game, much like the daily drills, padded practices or film sessions, is just another opportunity for Robinson to prove that he belongs.
As Robinson explained, “every camp for me feels the same. It is just going out there and working to get better and getting ready for these games coming up. It is all about sharpening your tools and making sure the tools that you have in your toolbox are ready to go on game day.”
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith