Former NBA guard Nate Robinson has always wanted a shot at playing in the NFL, and he got his chance to try out for the Seattle Seahawks on Monday.
Robinson played cornerback at the University of Washington, but he hasn't played football since 2002 in any capacity. The desire to play has never left him, though. Robinson told ESPN.com that he was "serious as a heart attack" about playing in the NFL.
"Totally serious," Robinson said. "As soon as I get the opportunity, if it comes my way, I'll take full advantage of it."
This tryout has been several years in the making. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll had recruited Robinson when Carroll was still coaching at USC, so they had an existing relationship. Robinson exchanged tweets with Carroll back in 2011 about the possibility of getting a shot with the Seahawks.
@nate_robinson I always knew you had skills, that's why we tried to get you before... you still got em?— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) August 2, 2011
@nate_robinson we know you have great handles, but the question is: does it translate to DB skills? I kinda think it does...— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) August 2, 2011
@nate_robinson well then, see you at practice at 1:30. bring your cleats.— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) August 2, 2011
Robinson didn't follow through on Carroll's invitation, instead signing with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent.
"He may be a little distracted with basketball, I don't know," Carroll told the Seattle Times at the time. "If he is, he probably won't be able to do it. But if he can get focused, there's always a chance."
In the NBA, Robinson's extraordinary athletic ability has compensated for his stature. At just 5'9, Robinson has managed to win Slam Dunk Contests in 2005, 2006 and most recently in 2010. Robinson had season-ending knee surgery following the 2014 season, and after short stints with the L.A. Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans in 2015, he headed to Israel to play for Hapoel Tel Aviv.
Most NFL cornerbacks are taller than 5'9", but succeeding at the cornerback position without the advantage of height isn't unheard of in the NFL. Antoine Winfield, for example, is also just 5'9, and he was a three-time Pro Bowler during his time with the Minnesota Vikings.
Realistically, it seems unlikely that a 32-year-old player just two years removed from major knee surgery is in an ideal position to begin an NFL career. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that the Seahawks had decided to pass on Robinson, but that they would keep him in mind should their needs at the cornerback position change.
Robinson told ESPN's Kevin Pelton that he had also spoken to the New England Patriots and that he has a connection with the Arizona Cardinals, so it's possible that other tryout opportunities are on the horizon for him. He also told ESPN that he plans to hire an agent with experience negotiating on behalf of NFL players.