Green Bay — When Luther Robinson scrolled through his text messages late last Thursday night, there was a common theme. Friends were confused. They saw the No. 97, the "Robinson" on the jersey.
But was the Luther Robinson they knew really activated?
"I confirmed to them that I was playing," Robinson said, laughing. "It was me and nobody else in my pads."
Friends had every right to be confused. The defensive lineman was called up from the practice squad on the day of the game. His tip of Christian Ponder's pass led to the pick-six in Green Bay's 42-10 win over Minnesota. Now, comes the hard part — lasting in this league. Finding a role. Capitalizing on the opportunity he never quite had at the University of Miami.
The 6-foot-3, 301-pound Robinson started a whopping three games in college. Part of an old coaching regime, he was sparsely used in the new one. As a senior, Robinson finished with 24 tackles and a ton of frustration.
On Green Bay's defensive line — one that's endured an extreme makeover — Robinson has a chance to stick.
"I knew I could play ball," said Robinson, who played 34 snaps against the Vikings. "I knew I could play. It was just a matter of competing and somebody picking me and going to the right place and position."
The Miami Dolphins, perpetually erratic by nature, are piecing together a deep, dangerous rushing attack under coach Joe Philbin. Lamar Miller, another former 'Cane, is averaging 5.7 yards per carry. And Knowshon Moreno returned to practice this week. Miami will bring a zone scheme that caused problems for the Packers last season.
Changes were made on the defensive line, and those changes now include Robinson. The way he sees it, this chance is long overdue.
Robinson grew up a die-hard Florida State fan in Fort Pierce, Fla., attending every Seminoles-run football camp from seventh grade through 11th grade. With Robinson in their own backyard, however, the Seminoles didn't offer him a scholarship until two weeks before signing day.
So he chose Miami. Yes, Robinson did watch the national championship last January.
"Yeah, I could have been there, right?" he said.
Instead, Miami it was. Robinson played two seasons under Randy Shannon and three under Al Golden, increasingly lost in the shuffle. After one 2012 game, Robinson's father, Luther Sr., phoned local radio station WQAM with a rant that Golden was "a liar" who favored his own recruits.
Luther Jr. apologized then for his Dad's comments and trudged along.
Looking back this week, Robinson admitted college was not fun.
"I can't say it was a good experience, but I tried my hardest," he said. "I didn't get to play. I mean, I played, but I was a back-up player."
Playing under Golden, he said, was "very different" than Shannon.
"I came in with Shannon, so I was a Shannon guy," Robinson said. "Coach Golden came in with his strict 'do this, do that.' It was different.... I knew I could play. And my Dad stayed in my ear, people at home believed in me. Some people believed in me, some people doubted me.
"With the doubt, I just use that as motivation and kept grinding."
Across the locker room, center Corey Linsley is told Robinson only started a couple games in college. At first, he's confused.
"What do you mean he started one or two games?" Linsley said.
That's it, he's told. Then, quizzical turns to bewildered.
"That's amazing," he said. "He was a good player from Day 1. You could tell. I would have never guessed that. Somebody screwed up."
That being said, this "somebody," Hurricanes defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, only had glowing things to say about Robinson question after question. The former Packers assistant describes Robinson as a player who played multiple techniques, serving as a "sixth man" off the bench.
"Really, he could've started," Franklin said. "He adjusted well to the role that he had. We had a good lineup with him being a part of it; it worked. He definitely could've started. He was a guy who could do it all. Technique, do it all. Fundamentals, do it all. He could play nose, could play end, could play the 3-technique and that was his role."
And the Packers, specifically senior personnel executive (and ex-Hurricane) Alonzo Highsmith spotted pro potential. Quickness, for one, stands out. Robinson originally wanted to be a basketball player until future Milwaukee Buck Larry Sanders dropped 40 points on him in a high school game. Still, Robinson is quick to note he scored 20 points himself at center that night.
The basketball background helps. Quick feet, he explained, are a must in the pass rush, in reading and reacting, in this new direction up front.
Through their one-on-one and half-line battles in training camp, Linsley saw this up close.
"He's very smooth with all of his movements," Linsley said. "He's patient, which you don't see in a lot of guys. He's not afraid to wait a second and then go into his move."
Datone Jones (ankle) is "day to day" and Josh Boyd (knee) returned to practice on a limited basis. Roles remain in flux and Robinson is suddenly a viable option at defensive end and sub.
This week, Robinson has been wearing a Nike "Punish Me" T-shirt in the locker room. He says he picked it up with a pair of new sneakers — the colors matched. Nothing personal, nothing Miami-related, he insists.
Yet the line sure applies. Robinson feels slighted, overlooked. And this weekend, he returns home with a real shot to be a difference-maker. He can perform in front of the people who wondered why he rode the bench so long for the Hurricanes. Questions were constant.
Now, the same friends who texted him then will begin coming out of the woodwork now.
Robinson never doubted he'd excel with a chance.
"I knew that if I got a call, I could come in and play," Robinson said. "I knew that."