It didn't feel real to Brian Robinson Jr. as Ron Rivera was telling him over the phone that he was being drafted by the Washington Commanders, and it still didn't feel real until he drove to the team facility for rookie minicamp.
Robinson, the sixth running back taken off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft, achieved a childhood dream when the Commanders used the No. 98 overall pick on him. He joins a long list of running backs with ties to the Alabama Crimson Tide, many of whom went on to have successful stints at the professional level.
Now that he's made it to the next step of his career, he has high expectations for what he can accomplish.
"I feel like I can do everything I want to do at this level," Robinson told former Washington running back Tim Hightower.
River and the offensive coaches have a clear plan for what they want Robinson to add to the backfield. They like his physicality, and they feel he can contribute to their vision for a one-two punch at running back. But if he's ever asked to have a more expansive role, he'll have no problem handling the extra responsibility.
"I definitely feel like I can be up there with the top guys in this league across the board."
After waiting his turn behind the likes of Najee Harris, Damien Harris and Bo Scarborough for four seasons, Robinson got the chance to be the Crimson Tide's feature back in 2021. He ended the season with 271 carries for 1,343 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Robinson wasn't asked to be much of a pass-catcher by Alabama, but he did haul in a career-high 35 receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns. That was more than enough to impress former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, who believes Robinson has a complete skillset.
"[He was] a huge part of what Alabama had to do to get to the national championship, running the football, catching the football, picking up pass protection" Ingram said. "That's what you look for out of a back. He runs physical, runs tough, he can break tackles, he does great in pass protection, has good hands coming out of the backfield."
The Washington Commanders took the field for the second day of OTAs and went through individual, special teams and 11-on-11 drills. Check out the top shots from Tuesday's practice. (Emilee Fails/Washington Commanders)
Ingram was one of the running backs Robinson watched a lot of growing up. The list also included Herschal Walker, Bo Jackson, Reggie Bush and Derrick Henry.
There are a few common themes in that group: they're all physical, and most of them are known for having all-around skillsets.
"Mark was actually the first guy I just watched," Robinson said. "[He] just had a phenomenal season at Alabama, winning the Heisman and the national championship in one … I was locked into everything that was going on."
Robinson has a long road ahead of him before he can be mentioned in the same conversation as any of the running backs on his list, but Rivera does feel like Robinson can contribute for the Commanders in 2022.
"As far as Brian's concerned, love the physical downhill style," Rivera said. "I saw the stat flash that this is a guy that breaks tackles over 800 yards after contact. That's pretty impressive."
For now, that's going to be Robinson's role. He'll be the bruising back to what Rivera called Gibson's "slasher" style. But eventually, perhaps Robinson will be asked to do more as he develops.
And if he borrows anything from the list of backs he grew up idolizing, a player who could pair the physicality of Henry with the versatility of Bush would be fun to watch.
"Once I get the opportunity, I'm gonna take advantage of it," Robinson said.