Eugene Robinson cautions Panthers with story of 'worst night of my life'

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Wednesday, February 3, 2016

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Eugene Robinson called his arrest as a member of the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons the night before Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 the "worst night of my life."

Robinson, now a radio and broadcast analyst for the Carolina Panthers, shared that experience with the team on Sunday before it departed from Charlotte, North Carolina, to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

Robinson, a three-time Pro Bowl safety, said he wanted to remind the Carolina players of the pitfalls that can occur during time off as they prepare for the Broncos on Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

"Getting to this stage, there's three things that's easy to forget: faith, family and football," Robinson said. "And I forgot all three. Hearing it come from me is a little bit different."

Robinson was charged with soliciting sex from an undercover police officer the night before the Super Bowl in Miami. A starting safety, he played the next day and gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass to Denver quarterback John Elway in a 34-19 Broncos victory.

"Like I told the guys, that was the worst night of my life," Robinson said. "The worst. Nothing else compares."

Carolina coach Ron Rivera called the speech "courageous." He was reminded of it as many of his players headed to nearby San Francisco to enjoy a day off, something Rivera admitted made him "a bit nervous."

"It was one of the bravest things I've seen a guy do," Rivera said. "When he got done, our guys gave him an ovation. For him to step up and relive that and tell the guys he was wrong, he forgot the reason why he was there, that's a huge message.

"And I think that's a great message."

Robinson's arrest came on the same day he won the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership. Many of the Panthers were unaware of his story, but they appreciated the message.

"It was shocking to most," quarterback Cam Newton said. "I know a lot of guys didn't expect that. For him to have that attitude to open up his life and his stories for us ... it just shows you what type of organization we have.

"A lot of guys wouldn't necessarily be comfortable telling everyone their story, but he did. A lot of guys stepped back and understood the value and the importance of stepping back and staying focused in an environment like this."

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery agreed.

"It reinforced everything that we preached all year long when it comes to being selfless, making it all about the team and not letting anything else get in the way of that," he said. "That was a great message for everyone at that point in time."

Robinson played the 2000 season for Carolina before retiring. He has been with the organization as an analyst the past 13 seasons.

"It brings back up everything," Robinson said of sharing his story. "I love this team. I've worked for this team for 14 years. I love [team owner Jerry] Richardson. I love that he would even take a chance on me.

"I live vicariously through these guys."

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