Cleat Geeks

Women of Sports: Rosie Robinson

Ever heard of Rosie Robinson? She is an athlete. She is an inspiration. She is the true definition of determination. She is definitely someone you should know.

Rosie grew up in Wisconsin. She started playing football with her older brother and his friends when she was 9 and continued to play with that group until she started High School. After graduating, Rosie didn’t play football again until 2011, where she played both men’s and women’s semi-professional tackle football mostly as Linebacker and Quarterback. In 2012, Rosie was named to the All-Star Team while playing with the Madison Cougars of the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), and on her way to trying out for the Women’s National Team.

During a 2013 tryout Rosie had an unfortunate accident, resulting in serious brain surgery. This will be Rosie’s first season back as she joins the Madison Blaze of the IWFL wearing number 88 to signify her new path.

Over the weekend, I sat down with Rosie and asked her the following questions. Her responses should motivate us all.

Q: How did you get involved with football?
A: When I was 9 I started playing football with my classmates every Friday. I was pretty good at throwing the ball, so I played QB there. After that I started playing QB and LB with my older brother and his friends.

Q: I’ve heard that you played on a men’s semi-pro football team? What team is that?
A: I played for 2 men’s teams; the Fond Du Lac Crusaders in 2011, and the Oshkosh Bombers.

Q: What positions did/do you play?
A: Men’s team – LB/S. Women’s team – QB, LB, RB

Q: What was it like playing on a men’s team?
A: It was a lot of fun. It was a little faster-paced most of the time. But otherwise, it was pretty much the same. The guys were cool; they’d treat me like a little sister. The coaches were pretty cool too.

Q: How do you get your mentality set for game day, knowing that you are going against men that are twice your size?
A: It never bothered me. Ever since I was little, I played against my brother and his friends. They were always older and obviously a lot bigger. The size thing was never a problem. I wrestled too when I was younger against guys. You get kind of use to it. I’m a pretty calm person so I don’t really psych myself up to play, I just go out and do it.

Q: Playing linebacker with the men’s team, when did you realize you could throw?
A: I was always good at throwing, but I like playing linebacker better. If I can play linebacker I always do. So this year I will play QB and linebacker when I can.

Q: I saw an NBC 26 interview of you by Andy McDonnell. In the interview he mentioned that you met your husband, Chris, thanks to the game. What’s that like – being on the same team as your husband?
A: It was fun. We both played for the Oshkosh Bombers together. The first practice, apparently I took his spot. I didn’t even know who he was then. Playing on the same team was fun. He played offense, I played defense. So we weren’t usually on the field at the same time. The only time we were in together was for special teams, he played line and I played personal protector for the kicker. So he was always worried that some big guy would get through him and come hit me. I think it was more of a challenge for him than it was for me playing on the same team.

Q: You were born with an arachnoid cyst in your brain. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
A: The Arachnoid is the middle membrane of your brain. When I was born, mine split and formed a pocket which holds cerebral spinal fluid and it pushed out the side. Mine is very large, so it compresses the brain. The midline should be straight, mine is about ½ inch off to the side. It puts pressure on the optic nerve if it shifts or gets to large. Just before I had my surgery in 2013, I lost vision in my right eye temporarily. That was fun. [Laughs] I ended up having the surgery to relieve the pressure. It’s still there and not much smaller than it was, but it took the pressure off my eye.

Q: Football has given you so much, but also took nearly everything away. How did you find the courage to go back out onto the field once you were cleared by your doctors?
A: It was motivation for something to do after I had my surgery. I lost a lot of memory from before this. I always remembered playing football. I know it made me happy. Even though my neurosurgeon always told me I’d never be able to play. My goal was to work hard, go to the gym, and get strong enough to be able to do it again anyway. Eventually, my neurosurgeon agreed that the risk was low enough that I would be able to play again.

Q: Let’s talk about the helmet-to-helmet hit. How will this affect your playing career going forward?
A: It happened during tryouts for the Women’s National Team. It was during a set drill. Things that you do in drills are never quite the same as how they really happen in a game. Now during one-on-one drills I’m usually a little more careful, not necessarily for myself, but also to make sure that I don’t hit anyone that way. You should never lead with your helmet, it’s dangerous for anyone. So, that’s probably about the only thing that has changed.

Q: Because of your injury would you discourage other women from playing football?
A: Never. Mine was kind of a freak thing. It could have happened with or without football. It’s not really any more dangerous for me to play football than anything else.

Q: How long did it take you to recover?
A: Not very long. Recovering from the surgery was pretty quick – I was able to run after about a week and went back to work a few days later. At that point I found out I had meningitis – that only lasted about 10 days. [Laughs]

Q: Did you ever say to yourself, “I am never going to go back on a football field.”
A: No. I was always going to play football again.

Q: We all take risks every day, when we drive a car or fly in a plane that may cause severe harm to us or even death, is that how you look at playing football now?
A: I don’t really think too much about it – all of life is a risk.

Q: Did you have a concussion as a result of this incident?
A: It’s possible. The cyst’s increase in size put more pressure on my brain, a lot of the symptoms of that are the same as a concussion.

Q: Does it have a bearing on your everyday life outside of football?
A: Not much anymore – I’ve learned how to handle the effects of the pressure in my head being too high or too low.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?
A: Being able to do all of the things that I used to do. The first time I tried to run the 40, I fell. [Laughs] So, just balance – the simple things in life. Learning to make up for each of those things all over again, finding my way to do it.

Q: How has football prepared you for life?
A: Football teaches you that things are easier to accomplish if you can work together as a team. If you want something and you want to do it well, it comes with a lot of work. You have to put in the effort if you want something to come out of it.

Q: Are you less fearless because of this incident?
A: I’m probably a lot less fearful than I should be. I figure I lived through that and things turned out okay. I can probably make it through just about anything and be alright.

Q: How do you celebrate when you score a touchdown?
A: Probably the least exciting thing you’ll ever see. [Laughs] I hand the ball to the referee and walk over by my team.

Q: When were tryouts for the Madison Blaze. How did it go?
A: Tryouts were a few months ago – it went well – I made it through the 40 without falling.[Laughs] We did the standard running/sprinting drills and worked on passing/hand-offs. The team looks really good this year.

Q: Is this the first time you’ve played on a woman’s team?
A: No, I played for Madison in 2011-2012 – The Blaze has a new ownership group.

Q: Is it different from playing with men? Similarities/differences?
A: Women do a lot better, actually. They play more like a team. The men’s teams around here are just a bunch of individuals out there for themselves and not the team. I know that isn’t always the case, but both teams I played on – unfortunately that’s the way they were.

Q: Do you play any other sports?
A: I’ve played a lot. Baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, ­­­wrestling, track, football.

Q: Did that/those sports help you get to where you are at today?
A: Yes, the skills I learned in each sport have contributed to where I am today.

Q: What is your locker room situation like?
A: With the guys – I changed in the same locker-room. One of the guys would sit at each end of the aisle to make sure no one would come near me. [Laughs]

Q: Have you ever had to deal with anything a male football player has never had to deal with?
A: I would say, just proving to the coaches that I belong there; where the guys just show up and are accepted.

Q: Like your niece, what do you tell girls who ask you for advice when it comes to playing football?
A: When my niece Abby asks me about football, she always asks what she needs to do in order to play. I tell her: learn the game as best as she can, pay attention, and always work hard and she’ll be fine.

Q: Who is your role model?
A: My little brother, John. He’s had a lot of challenges in his life but never let anything get in the way of him reaching his goals.

Q: Describe a typical practice?
A: Men’s practices – everyone shows up when they feel like it, if they show up at all. It’s pretty disorganized and not a whole lot happens. That’s about how it is for the games too. Women’s teams are completely the opposite. Everyone shows up early and is eager to start practice. Practices are very organized. We start with warmups with the trainer – stretching and light running. Everyone changes quickly so we can spend as much time as possible on the field. We do individual things based on positions as well as tackling drills. The second half of practice is usually running through team offense and team defense.

Q: What is your favorite football moment so far?
A: ­­­­In 2012 I ran the opening kick-off back for a touchdown against Minnesota. My favorite moment was seeing how excited my little brother was when I got back to the sideline.

Q: Do you have a pregame ritual?
A: Yes. [Laughs] I have nachos from JD’s before every game and I like to go for a short run. I wear headphones and listen to music and do my own thing. I don’t like spending a lot of time in the locker-room with really loud music and yelling and all of that.

Q: What is playing on your headphones?
A: Usually 80’s Music.

Q: Favorite all-time song?
A: “Ain’t No Reason” by Brett Dennen

Q: Who gets the most credit for where you are today in life?
A: My family!

Q: What is your outlook for next season with the Madison Blaze?
A: It should be a lot of fun. We play some new teams this year, so that’ll be exciting. The teams in our league have been improving each year, so the competition is getting better. The Blaze has been able to win the division the last 3 seasons – hopefully this season we will make it to the championship game.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
A: – Fred DeVito

Follow Rosie and the Madison Blaze as they kick-off their season in April.

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