When Dominique Robinson showed up in Oxford, Ohio for his first fall camp at Miami of Ohio, his roommate lasted only a few days before requesting a new bunk mate.
“This guy is crazy,” Miami of Ohio head coach Chuck Martin recalled the player telling him.
Robinson’s alarm went off in the wee hours of the morning and he started every day with his daily quota of pushups.
“Dom has a plan every day of how to be better than you at everything he does,” Martin said. “I don’t know what he loves. He loves being prepared, I know that.”
Robinson’s pushups weren’t intended to intimidate his roommate. It was all a part of his plan. The 23-year-old fifth-round draft pick of the Bears has always been that way. He puts in the work and doesn’t let outside forces distract him from his goals.
In five years at Miami, he went from incoming quarterback to wide receiver to defensive end. He earned a psychology degree and is four classes away from his masters. He met a girl freshman year, and now he’s married.
“I don’t have much of a social life,” Robinson said. “I don’t like going out. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. So doing work was not hard. Sometimes it was a little tough getting the work done (because) you’ve got roommates and stuff like that, but it was easy to manage.”
Just ask his first roommate.
The Bears drafted Robinson because of his potential. After making the switch from receiver to defensive end prior to the 2020 season, Robinson never even technically started a game at the position. But the athletic ability is there, and so is the work ethic.
Martin, who grew up in Park Forest and went to Rich East, has been the head coach at Miami since 2014. He remembered recruiting “a genetic freak” out of McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio. The RedHawks gave Robinson his only scholarship offer coming out of high school.
“He’s the most professional, most mature, the nicest person, hardest-working person, all the cliches you always hear about everyone, but he’s literally it,” Martin said.
Martin remembers NFL scouts coming to training camp during Robinson’s freshman year and asking about No. 11. Martin loved telling the scouts that the kid was a true freshman and had been on campus for all of three weeks.
How mature was Robinson? How different was he from the other college-age football players dreaming NFL dreams? Look no further than the decision to move from receiver to defensive end. It wasn’t a coach’s suggestion. The move was Robinson’s idea.
Another former McKinley football player, Jamal Davis II, went to Pittsburgh and later transferred to Akron. Davis, who has a similar build to Robinson, made the move from linebacker to edge rusher and gave himself a shot at the NFL. Davis has bounced around with several teams’ practice squads and is currently on the Los Angeles Chargers.
Robinson thought if Davis could make that position switch, he could too.
“That was all in the back of my head and then I’m watching the 2019 season,” Robinson said. “I’m going through the 2019 season at wide receiver, it wasn’t going my way. So I’m watching — I love watching college football — so I’m watching Chase Young just run around people, so I’m like, ‘Man, if I can’t do that, there’s something wrong with me.'”
Most people don’t watch Chase Young and think: I can do that.
Robinson went to Martin a few days after the RedHawks won the Mid-American Conference title game. Martin suggested he consider playing H-back, which is similar to a tight end position. Robinson had other ideas.
“I want to move to defense, defensive end,” Robinson recalled saying.
Martin told Robinson that the defensive line coach had wanted Robinson ever since he showed up on campus. So Martin was definitely on board.
“I’d like to take the credit for it, but Dom really is the one that made the move),” Martin said.
Now in Chicago, Robinson joins a crowded defensive end position that includes Robert Quinn, who set the team’s single-season sack record in 2021.
Additionally, Robinson will probably be stuck behind third-year pro Trevis Gipson and free agent Al-Quadin Muhammad.
The Bears don’t plan on treating Robinson different from anybody else at the position just because he’s still fairly new to the position.
“Not one bit,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “I look at it from this standpoint: We never assume that a player knows what to do. So even if it’s a 12-year vet, we start from scratch. We never assume they know where the restroom is, we never assume they know what a notebook is, we never assume they know how to get in the huddle. We start from square one and we teach everybody.”
Robinson has been learning this week at rookie minicamp. If his time at Miami was any indication, he’ll learn quickly.
“He’s played such a short time (at defensive end) and he’s so smart,” Martin said. “He’ll be a sponge.”