ST. LOUIS — Greg Robinson didn’t want to cry, but he couldn’t hold back the tears.
The Thibodaux native and former Auburn standout was introduced to St. Louis media Tuesday and recalled his draft night Thursday, when the Rams selected him with the second overall pick.
“When I got the call and hearing my family behind me, as I was on the phone, it made me a little emotional,” Robinson said. “I tried to stay strong because a few guys told me don’t cry, but it was just something that happened. As my mom cried, it worked on me and I shed a few tears.”
Alongside Robinson during the news conference was Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who worked out with Robinson in Arizona as part of the predraft process. Donald said the two never talked about winding up on the same team but added, “It’s cool the way it worked out.”
Robinson appeared in a commercial during the draft. In it, he discussed overcoming adversity — like the death of his father, Greg Blackledge, and living through Hurricane Katrina.
“A lot of people that went through the same things I went through, it probably took them down and they went down the wrong path,” he said. “Everything that has happened in my life that’s bad, I’ve tried to use as motivation. Responding to something bad negatively doesn’t make it a better situation.”
Robinson said he often thought about his dad, who never saw his son play in college. Robinson remains diligent in his efforts to be a positive influence on the Thibodaux community, where a draft watch party was held Thursday.
“I just want those people to know that there’s hope and dreams can come true,” said Robinson, who signed an endorsement deal with Nike and plans to make a donation to his high school. “The whole neighborhood came out to watch me get drafted. It was crazy. They blocked off the street.
“The first opportunity I could to do something positive for the neighborhood, anywhere I came from, is just a blessing and I’m happy to be in this position where I could do something like that.”
Robinson, the first offensive lineman selected in the first round by Jeff Fisher in his 20 years as an NFL head coach, said he’s glad the draft process is over so he can focus on football. Robinson likely will begin his career at left guard but may compete with Joe Barksdale and Rodger Saffold for the starting right tackle position.
His NFL dream becoming a reality didn’t quite hit him until he walked into the team’s locker room Monday and saw a large locker with his name and number above it. The 6-foot-5, 332-pound Robinson joked that he is actually able to sit in his locker — something he wasn’t able to do at Auburn.
“I tried once,” he said. “I was tired after practice and tried to push in the locker, but I couldn’t fit.”
Robinson and the rest of the rookie class — including defensive lineman Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the league — arrived in St. Louis on Monday. They met their position coaches and teammates and will spend the next two days going through what Fisher called an orientation. The rookies will take the field Thursday for workouts and will join the veterans Monday as part of the offseason conditioning program.
Part of that rookie class is former Auburn teammate Tre Mason, a running back.
“He called me and said, ‘Bro, I’m a Ram,’ and I just broke out because I could hear in his voice that he was getting emotional,” Robinson said. “I could hear him crying over the phone and I was like, ‘Man, this is crazy. I would’ve never thought that.’ ”
Robinson and Mason committed to Auburn together and consider each other family.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to play with Greg again,” Mason said.
“God blessed us with that opportunity.”