Keenan Robinson had never suffered an injury during any season in high school or as a student-athlete at the University of Texas.
But it didn't take long into Robinson's professional career for not one, but two season-ending injuries to provide him with major road blocks as he tried to achieve his dream of becoming a major playmaker in the NFL.
During the 2012 season, Robinson had recorded a career-high three tackles Thanksgiving Day against the Dallas Cowboys before he tore his right pectoral muscle, ending his season as the team was making a late push to win the division.
Throughout the offseason, Robinson rehabbed extensively to get himself back to playing condition – only to tear his left pectoral muscle in the first practice of training camp, ending his entire season yet again.
Go behind the scenes as Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson goes in front of the camera for his 2014 photo shoot.
It was the first time in his career that Robinson had to watch a full slate of games as a spectator.
"It was the first time I ever had surgery," Robinson explained. "It was very tough just being away from the game."
While teammates and fans are seeing everything envisioned out of him when the team drafted him in the fourth-round of the 2012 NFL Draft – a super quick guy who also has the frame to body tight ends – Robinson's journey back to the field wasn't an overnight affair.
"Basically, the first was getting healthy and doing whatever the coaches had me do to get healthy," Robinson said. "Then after that, just getting back into the swing of things. Getting my strength back, getting my mental and physical awareness and getting back used to playing the game.
"Once I got that, I was ready to play, but then I got hurt again. So I had to go through the whole thing all over again. It sucked, but I think I'm a better player for it now, because now I have more of a mental aspect and mental upside to my game that I had previously before my injuries."
Replacing A LegendWhile Robinson won't necessarily call it replacing, the former University of Texas linebacker is indeed projected to be the replacement London Fletcher, who retired at the end of the 2013 season.
Just like the Redskins wide receivers had to do in 1994 when Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Monk left or the cornerbacks in 2003 when fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Darrell Green finally hung it up, Robinson is being bequeathed Mike linebacker duties all while replacing a Redskins legend.
Entering just his third season, Robinson said the biggest asset of the four-time Pro Bowler's game that he's trying to take with him is his mental preparation.
"I watched him a lot from the perspective of seeing how he prepared for the game," he said. "I viewed how he approached the game, viewed how he handled his business and he handled the way he prepared for his game was the most professionally I'd ever seen anyone.
"The way he prepared for practice, the way he came to practice, the way he prepared for a game mentally and physically is something I only strive for, because he did so well that he stayed in the league for 16 years. Hopefully I can do the same, but I know he set the blueprint that if I can follow I might be somewhat successful."
Practicing Against ReedWhile a lot of attention is being given to the battles on the outside during 11-on-11 drills, perhaps the most important competition in terms of growth is happening right in the middle of the field – Keenan Robinson vs. Jordan Reed.
While Robinson covered guys like Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant during his time at Texas, neither is the big-body threat in the middle that way Reed can be.
As training camp continues to strengthen the whole team, Robinson's getting reps against the best tight end "as far as route running goes."
"Those other guys like [New Orleans tight end] Jimmy Graham can jump and do all that, but as far as pure route running he's the best," Robinson said of Reed. "That just helps me because it builds my confidence in what I can do."
Even if it's not a tight end, Robinson said this experience has greatly improved his pass coverage ability.
"I know if I have to cover somebody that's a slot receiver who might run routes as well as J-Reed, then I'll be able to do it," he explained. "It just builds confidence and it builds coach's confidence in me that even if we are mismatched, well it's really not a mismatch because I've done that before covering slot receivers like DeSean [Jackson] when I have to."
Continuing To Work With HaslettConsistency is never a bad thing for a young player. Robinson will be the first to admit this.
While there are many new faces on the coaching staff, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is not.
Robinson said one of the most comforting facets of his return to the field is that Haslett -- who is in his fifth season in Washington -- is still there.
"I'm loving it," Robinson told the media about having the opportunity to continue working with Haslett. "The fact that we have the same defense that we had my rookie year, so I never really lost a step. It would be different if I had to come here, come off an injury and learn a new defense, but I didn't.
"So everything that I learned my rookie year, it still applies now, so basically it was just recalling all the old stuff and just adjusting to a few things here and there."
Being A LeaderBy nature of being the Mike linebacker, Robinson will be asked to call out plays this year.
Although it will be a big jump for a player with only 11 career tackles, he understands that it comes with the job.
"As far as the play-calling roles go, it's just something that somebody has to do," Robinson told the media. "It could have been me or Perry (Riley Jr.), but since I have the mic, the duty falls on my shoulders.
"I'm loving it right now."
And while he may only be entering his third NFL season, Robinson is the second-longest tenured inside linebacker on the roster behind only Riley Jr. – a five-year veteran.
Using his understanding of the organization and terminology, Robinson's jump to leadership has been fast-tracked.
"For the insides, it's me and Perry [Riley, Jr.]," Robinson said when asked about his leadership role. "We are the two guys that have kind of been there the longest. Obviously we brought in some veteran guys from other teams, but for me and Perry, we've been there the longest.
"We're both kind of the leaders right now."