By Rachel Terrill, Player Engagement Insider
Robbie Tobeck’s 14 years in the NFL were successful by any measure. His locker room demeanor and on field dedication also made him one of his teammates’ favorite players.
Today, when he’s not working at Griffin McLean, the insurance firm he now owns and runs, you’re likely to find him as a spectator at his children’s sports games and horse shows. If he’s not there, chances are you’ll find Tobeck on the water, fishing with family and friends.
In his 14-year NFL career, Robbie Tobeck, played center for the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks. He protected some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and played in some of the biggest games. But beyond being a great player on the field, Tobeck’s teammates knew him as a family man with a stringent work ethic. He had a great sense of humor and he loved fishing - almost as much as he loved the game of football.
Tobeck did not take a typical path to the NFL. In fact, his high school didn’t offer tackle football until his senior year. He started college at Liberty University in Virginia, transferred to Kilgore College, a two-year junior college in Texas, before transferring to play at Washington State University (WSU). Upon graduating from WSU, Tobeck signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 1993.
An unlikely path to the NFL led to an even more unlikely length of career. After seven seasons and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIII with the Falcons, Tobeck signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2000. In Seattle, Tobeck played for another seven seasons and won the 2005 NFC Championship. He played in Super Bowl XL and was selected to the Pro Bowl that year.
On and off the field, Tobeck had fun in the NFL. He recalled his unique opportunity to meet some wrestlers he watched as a child. “I’ve met famous actors, musicians, successful business people, and politicians. However, by far, my favorite story to tell is getting in the professional wrestling ring. I jumped in to save former (Seattle) teammate, (defensive tackler) Bill Goldberg, from getting jumped by the NWO (New World Order) when he was about to pin Hulk Hogan. It was a crazy crowd and it was quite a rush.”
When asked about his funniest locker room memories, Tobeck said, “All of the funny stories come from guys just being guys and in the locker room setting it can get pretty funny. One of my favorite things was the quote board we had in Seattle. Any time someone said something the wrong way, or something that didn’t make sense, it went up on the quote board. At the end of the year, the guy who spent the most time on the board during the year was awarded a cow tongue. I’m not sure why this is funny, but it is.”
Another great funny tradition he recalled was sending rookies to the supermarket to pick up fictitious “free” turkeys each Thanksgiving.” Each season, Tobeck led veteran players to tell rookies that the local grocery store would give each NFL player one free turkey. The veterans then sent the rookies with a list of players who wanted them to pick up their turkeys. Tobeck explained, “We always had a film guy from the team at the grocery store, filming the players asking the unwitting grocery store employees for a free turkey. It was always hilarious and we watched the film together as a full team the Saturday night before a home game. We had one guy in Seattle go back to the grocery store three years in a row. He was a linebacker. It takes those guys a while to learn.”
After 14 seasons, it was an illness that finally sidelined Tobeck. Still, he sees his professional transition as a relatively easy one. “I had a pretty easy career transition from playing in the NFL to owning and running Griffin MacLean Insurance. I did internships in the offseason to figure out exactly what I wanted to do when I was done playing. Running an insurance brokerage is a far cry from playing in the NFL, but I use the lessons that I learned from playing football in what I do now.”
In retirement, Tobeck finds joy in his family and fishing. “When I have free time I am usually at one of my kids’ sporting events or on the boat chasing fish. My daughters show Arabian horses, my son Mason plays football at Utah State and my son Madden plays football in high school and has a passion for tournament bass fishing. Between all of that going on I like to travel and fish. I’ve had the good fortune to fish in places like Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, here in the northwest, and back home in Florida. It’s always a rush to check off a bucket list fish in any of these places. Unfortunately, when my wife Sonya goes on these trips with me, she always catches the big one.”
Sonya enjoys fishing with her husband and said that fishing was a natural replacement for the passion her husband once found in football.
Ever the family man, Tobeck now reflects on his NFL career and is grateful that his four children grew up watching him play. “One of the things that I am grateful for is that I got to play long enough that my children remember going to see Dad play,” he said.
Tobeck’s children not only watched him play, but his eldest son, Mason, who was still in elementary school at the time, liked to critique his Dad’s play. “One of the toughest calls I had to make after a game was to my oldest son, Mason. It was almost like he had a grade sheet out and was grading me after every play, ’Hey Dad, what were you thinking on that holding call?’ or ’If you guys would block a little longer, that would be helpful. Hasselbeck’s got WR’s coming open.’”
This family man with a stringent work ethic who loves fishing almost as much as he loved football continues to pass on his love of the game to his sons. “I’m more nervous watching the boys play than I was when I played and as a dad, it is great to share my passion for football with them. When I talk to them about playing football, for the most part, I stay away from the X’s and O’s. I try to stress things like how they practice, effort, preparation, being a good teammate and the little things that separate one player from the next.”