Chiefstory: Johnny Robinson


(Long-time reader and one of our favorite commenters, Matthew Shearon aka Cinco Ocho,  guest posts on the legends of Chiefs history periodically. “Chiefstory” continues with two-way star Johnny Nolan Robinson. Nowadays, the only two-ways that are available are communication devices. Enjoy! – Adam)

Johnny Nolan Robinson was born on September 9, 1938 in Delhi, Louisiana. He went to college at Louisiana State University, where he played running back. He received first-team All-SEC honors in 1958 and then second-team All-SEC honors in 1959. In1958, he helped the Tigers win the national championship. In 3 years at LSU, Robinson rushed for 893 yards. He also caught 36 passes in his collegiate career as a Tiger, and scored 14 touchdowns. He was a 1st round pick of the Detroit Lions in 1960. He was the 3rd player picked overall. He decided to go to the American Football League, where he was picked by the Dallas Texans.

Johnny Rob (which I started calling him because he robbed the opposing teams of the ball more than almost any other Chiefs player in history) started his pro football career as a halfback. He rushed for 458 yards as a rookie. He also caught 41 passes for an impressive 611 yards. Robinson also returned 14 punts for 207 yards and 3 kickoffs for 54 yards. He scored 4 touchdowns rushing, 4 touchdowns receiving, and ran back 1 punt for a score as well. He threw the only pass of his pro career that year too, but ironically it was picked off. In 1961, he had 52 carries for 200 yards and scored twice, both on the ground. He did catch 35 passes for 601 yards and caught 5 touchdowns that year as well.

Johnny Rob moved to strong safety in 1962 where he became a master thief for the Texans. He picked off 4 passes that season. The Texans moved to Kansas City the next season and were renamed the Chiefs. He had 3 interceptions in 1963, then 2 interceptions in 1964. In 1965, Robinson picked off 5 passes and returned them for 99 yards. In 1966 he set a new career high in interceptions with 10, returning them for 136 yards. Robinson followed that with 5 interceptions in 1967. In 1968, he picked off 6 passes. In 1969, Robinson set a career high with 158 return yards off of 8 interceptions.

Robinson suffered three broken ribs during the game at Oakland in a collision with, and this is pretty funny, a game official. Arms extended way above his head reaching for a pass, Robinson got headbutted in full sprint. He didn’t practice during the AFL Championship and Super Bowl, and didn’t even visit the locker room until the last day before kickoff. Robinson said he convinced the New Orleans Saints’ surgeon to deaden the pain with injections of Novocaine from his ribs to his spine. “He used a whole bottle,” he said. Robinson played against the Minnesota Vikings, a heavy favorite, from start to finish with the surgeon seated on the team bench. “The surgeon met me at the game and deadened it again,” Robinson said. “I looked like a pin cushion. I went and sat right next to him every time I came off the field in case my ribs came loose and punctured my lungs.” In Super Bowl 4 the Chiefs defeated the Vikings 23-7 and Johnny Rob recovered a fumble late in the first half to help seal the deal for the Chiefs. He also had a pick on Joe Kapp in the 4th quarter. He did all of this while playing with three broken ribs.

Opposing QBs soon learned to keep the ball away from him. Robinson had another great year in 1970, when the AFL merged with the NFL. He snatched 10 interceptions that season. He also had 155 interception return yards. He ran a fumble back 46 yards for the final touchdown of his pro career. In 1971, Robinson had 4 interceptions. Unbelievable stat: the Texans/Chiefs were an unbelievable 35-1-1 when Robinson had at least one interception. His last game came on Christmas. That game awas against the Dolphins, and it ended up being the longest game in NFL history after 22 minutes and 40 seconds of overtime. It was also the Chiefs’ last game ever in Municipal Stadium. Robinson retired in the summer of 1972, before training camp.

Robinson holds the Chiefs franchise interception record for a safety with 57 for his career. Only Hall of Fame Cornerback Emmitt Thomas had more interceptions as a Chief. He is currently ranked 10th all time among NFL players in the interceptions category, tied with 4 other players. His 43 interceptions in the AFL ranks 3rd All Time in AFL history. He was his team’s season leader in interceptions on five different occasions.. He is a member of the All-Time All-AFL Team, and one of only 20 players who were in the AFL for its entire 10-year run. Robinson was a six-time All-American Football League selection, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, eight time All-Pro selection and is thought of by many as the player who redefined the role of the strong safety in the NFL.

His career was more than spectacular. He displayed a similar intensity off of the field. That is until one day on his way to a liquor store when he was living near Jacksonville, FL, in the mid-1970s, something drew him to a Christian bookstore. That then drew him to a church sermon that he says changed his life. He returned to Louisiana, where he was ordained in the World Ministry Fellowship and eventually founded the Johnny Robinson Boys Home in 1980. The boys facility — a former plantation house sitting on four acres near the Ouachita River in Monroe — provides sanctuary for a maximum of 45 troubled boys, all the way up to age 16.

Now  66, he has endured a laundry list of health complications since last May. In chronological order: heart attack, stroke, bone-marrow lymphoma and thyroid cancer. He has since had a quadruple bypass, his thyroid removed, chemotherapy to arrest the lymphoma and physical therapy to recover from the partial paralysis that the stroke caused. He’s a little slow getting around his home in Monroe, La. now. He doesn’t go anywhere near the tennis court anymore and can’t always spit out the what he wants to say. But he’s thankful to be talking at all, and he’s determined to make progress on a daily basis. “I feel fairly good for a guy that’s on his deathbed. Just kidding,” Robinson joked recently. “The stroke has been the difficult thing for me to take. There are different kinds of strokes in terms of severity, so I guess I’m pretty well lucky.”

Johnny Robinson to Len Dawson during the 1969 conference championship game against Oakland after the defense kept intercepting the ball and the offense kept fumbling “listen, if you cough it up one more time and we intercept it, don’t bother coming onto the field, we’ll take care of it, we’ll hang on to the football”.

Merlin from A.A. says “Johnny should be in the Hall of Fame.”

D.A.S. from “What’s the deal with Johnny Robinson not being in the NFL HOF? The guy was a freak. If he isn’t there no one should be.”

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