The Portland State Vikings defense has been terrorizing the Big Sky Conference all season long. At the center of this force is senior middle linebacker DJ Robinson, who recently captured Big Sky player of the week honors for his dominating performance against Eastern Washington on Saturday.
In the 34-0 route, Robinson had three sacks, 10 total tackles, and kept immense pressure on the Eastern Washington backfield all night. The great performance is all part of a breakout season for Robinson, who is relishing the chance to start every game.
”It feels like a great accomplishment. I’ve been here for four years now. In the past I’ve had my shots to get in here and there, but this year I’ve been a consistent starter, and every week I’ve gotten better, so I feel like I’ve worked for it,” Robinson said.
His passionate spirit has become Robinson’s defining characteristic. As one of the team’s most experienced players, he sets a good example as a hard worker in addition to providing veteran leadership.
”His enthusiasm for playing the game of football is incredible. Athletics are what he’s got a true passion for, then you combine that with great athletic ability and you’ve got yourself a prototypical middle linebacker,” said head coach Tim Walsh. “He’s the whole real deal. The way he plays the game, to me, actions speak louder than words. His actions are very well respected by coaches and players here.”
This is Robinson’s fourth year playing for Walsh. In 2003, he entered the program as a true freshman and played in all 11 games, starting only one. During his sophomore and junior years, he continued to play in every game, and earned a combined three starts. This season, he has secured the starting job at the middle linebacker position. During their time together, Walsh has seen Robinson transform into the player he is today.
”Physically he’s gotten somewhat better, he’s gotten stronger and maybe a little bit faster. The most important thing he’s gotten over the past four years is he’s gotten smarter,” Walsh said. “He’s learned to become not only a very good athlete on the football field, but a very smart football player on the field.”
Robinson has been one of the Vikings’ most reliable defenders all season. He is second on the team with 63 total tackles and second in sacks with five. He also has one interception on the year.
”I think he’s one of the best linebackers that there is in this league, probably in the nation, because of his will to just keep going all the time, and that’s what separates him from the rest of the linebackers out there,” said senior cornerback and teammate Dominic Dixon.
When it comes to utilizing his mind, Robinson has done as well in the classroom as he has on the gridiron. As a senior, he is working to finish his student requirements at PSU.
”Hopefully I’ll go on to law school,” Robinson said. “I just finished my major of criminal justice, so I can go into law. If the whole football thing doesn’t work out, I’ll just finish my education.”
Splitting time between the field and the classroom can prove to be a difficult challenge for the student athlete. In Robinson’s case, he tackles it with his usual amount of hard work and dedication.
”A lot of people don’t give us the credit we deserve. They think we get everything handed to us on a silver platter. Really, it’s like a job. Then there’s always class work on top of that, which every student can tell you, has a workload itself. But you do whatever you have to do,” Robinson said.
This Saturday, the Vikings travel to Eugene to play the Oregon Ducks. The game is a trip home for Robinson, who is from the Eugene area. Prior to PSU, he played football at Eugene’s Willamette High School. Oregon is heavily favored in the contest, but Robinson sees it as just another game on the schedule.
”It’s not necessarily bigger than any other game. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna die, the Ducks are huge,’ but really the opportunity to go out there every week and play another game is why I play,” Robinson said. “I’m real passionate about the sport, because it gives me the opportunity to go out there and exploit all the life lessons you learn – from my dedication, to my desire, and putting my knowledge into play. It has a little bit of every facet of life in it.”
The product of Robinson’s hard work and relentless demeanor is a season that isn’t going unnoticed. He is a large part of the success that the standout Viking defense, as well as the entire team, is having this year.