Michael Robinson: NFL veteran Dedicated to Local Education

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By Paul Woody
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Professional athletes often are good at talking, but not always so good at doing.

Michael Robinson is different. Always has been.

Robinson220_02_1218Robinson was a star football player at Varina High School in Henrico, VA. He was a star player at Penn State. He was a fourth-round draft choice of the San Francisco 49ers in 2006. He played eight seasons in the NFL (49ers: 2006-2009, Seahawks: 2010-2013) and helped the Seattle Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII.But Robinson never forgot his Varina, Virginia roots. And he never has lost sight of what matters most.

Education always has been at the top of his list. When asked what he valued most about playing football at Penn State, he consistently has cited the educational opportunities.Robinson is retired from the NFL, where he played fullback and on special teams. Now he uses his communication skills in his job with the NFL Network.

He also uses his leadership and his belief in education to make a difference in Richmond, where he returned to live after his pro football career.

Robinson’s foundation, Excel to Excellence, is up and running. He has a program, Team Excel, in progress at Varina High and John Rolfe Middle for 150 students in grades seven through 11.

Students are divided into teams, and each team focuses on school attendance, grade-point average and community service. Points are awarded in each category, and standings are kept. Awards are given on a weekly and annual basis, including scholarship money.

The focus is on life skills and career exploration, and the mentors meet with students once a week for an hour before school begins.

“The kids are motivated,” Varina activities director Kevin Adams said. “It’s a team concept, and they’re accountable to each other.

“Our motto is, ‘This is Varina.’ And Mike is Varina. He always has been. He’s willing to give back.”

Robinson is working to export his Excel to Excellence to the hometowns of other players.


Robinson220_01_1218Role model

My mother. She was the example of constant sacrifice. She showed me what it meant to persevere. For a long time it was just my mother, brother and me, and she always made sure we ate, were clean and had our essentials. She worked two and three jobs sometimes, but she never complained. She just served her family.

Alternate profession or course of study

Probably a government official. I just feel the millennials are starting to come to positions of leadership around the world. My generation has seen a lot of social injustices and change happen in this country during our lifetime, and there is time for new ideas and fresh ideas. I also love to serve people.

Something that might surprise others

I am currently building low-income housing in Panama for poor people there – I plan to do this around the world. Also I look in the mirror every morning and stand like Superman and listen to whatever music I am feeling. My kids also take part. I am getting my mind right for a great day.

Favorite book/movie

My favorite book is “Uncommon” by Tony Dungy, because I strive to be uncommon. I strive to pave my own path to setting something up here in Richmond and hopefully nationwide that will be here for decades after me. Favorite movie is “Coming to America” with Eddie Murphy. I think Eddie is a comedic genius.

Something you’d like to do

I want to start a school for leadership here in Richmond and build our future leaders.

Proudest accomplishment

Being a dad. I didn’t realize I possessed this love.

A small moment in life with a big impact

I feel my greatest moment (other than kids/family) is the creating of Excel to Excellence Foundation and our signature program, Team Excel. To be able to affect young people’s lives will always have a long-lasting effect on me, because if you really want change in this world, I believe you have to affect young people. They are our future. Every moment I get to spend with the kids of Team Excel, every time we expand, every time we gain more mentors (team leaders), I have a life-changing moment, because another person is believing in affecting young people’s lives.

Favorite thing about Richmond region

Well, it’s where I am from. It is the area that shaped me. I love the people here!


Position: NFL Network analyst; retired NFL player; founder, Excel to Excellence Foundation

Born/hometown: Feb. 6, 1983; Henrico, VA

College: Penn State (bachelor’s degrees in advertising/public relations and in journalism)

Family: wife Shameka, four children