After playing his first seven NFL seasons with the Falcons, Robbie Tobeck signed a coming-home contract with the Seahawks in 2000 and ended up on the 35th Anniversary team.
Robbie Tobeck was born and raised in Florida, but when he signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in 2000 the veteran center considered it a coming-home transaction.
“It wasn’t really a homecoming, but it was coming to the place I wanted to live and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life,” said Tobeck, who got a taste for life in the Pacific Northwest while playing two seasons at Washington State University.
“This was kind of a home-away-from-home for me.”
Tobeck quickly made himself at home – and found a home – in the middle of an offensive line that paved the way for the most prolific running back in franchise history and provided the building blocks for the most successful stretch in the team’s first 35 seasons.
From 2001-2005, Shaun Alexander ran for 7,504 of his club-record 9,429 yards. From 2003-2006, the Seahawks averaged 10.3 victories, advanced to the playoffs each season and won three consecutive NFC West titles.
“One thing I really cherish about playing here, when you’ve got to work for something – and we did – there are always those challenges in your path,” Tobeck said of getting back to the playoffs in 2003, finally beating the Rams in St. Louis in 2005 and playing in the franchise’s first Super Bowl after that season.
“It’s so rewarding when you work so hard and you finally overcome that mountain. Then there’s another one in your way. But it was fun. It was a fun experience.”
Tobeck retired after the 2006 season, making his announcement in the hallway outside the Seahawks locker room at Soldier Field after a playoff loss to the Chicago Bears. Before playing seven seasons in Seattle, Tobeck was with the Atlanta Falcons for seven seasons.
“I knew I was done,” he recalled this week. “Physically, the body hurt. The guys in the NFL kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and I was at my limit, obviously. I was just done. And mentally, people don’t understand. Playing the game is a lot of fun. It’s a blast. And I miss it. The longer I get away from it, the more I miss it.
“But getting ready for training camp and then the start of the season each year and then each game, it’s a lot tougher mentally than it is physically at times. That’s the thing people can’t comprehend: Playing the game is fun, but getting ready and all the stuff that goes into it isn’t; it’s work. And I just wasn’t ready to do that work anymore.”
BLUE AND GREEN DREAM TEAM
The Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, as selected by the readers of Seahawks.com:
WR Steve Largent
LT Walter Jones
LG Steve Hutchinson
C Robbie Tobeck
RG Bryan Millard
RT Howard Ballard
TE John Carlson
WR Bobby Engram
WR Brian Blades
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Shaun Alexander
FB Mack Strong
DE Jacob Green
DT Joe Nash
DT Cortez Kennedy
DE Michael Sinclair
OLB Chad Brown
MLB Lofa Tatupu
ILB Fredd Young
OLB Rufus Porter
CB Marcus Trufant
CB Dave Brown
NB Shawn Springs
SS Kenny Easley
FS Eugene Robinson
K Norm Johnson
P Rick Tuten
KOR Steve Broussard
PR Nate Burleson
Gone, but definitely not forgotten. That’s Tobeck.
When the readers of Seahawks.com voted for the 35th Anniversary team, Tobeck was the overwhelming choice at center – by 1,754 votes over Blair Bush, who had been the center on the 25th Anniversary team that was selected by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 2000.
“That’s awesome,” Tobeck said. “Just hearing I’d been selected kind of picked me up a little. That is an honor, no doubt about it.”
And a well-deserved honor, at that. As middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was scanning the list of players who joined him on the 35th Anniversary team, he stopped when he got to Tobeck and laughed. Not because he was surprised, but because he was pleased.
“He made it? That’s awesome,” Tatupu said. “Love that guy. He was just the best prankster that we had. And I guy that I don’t think got enough credit. His leadership was second to none. When he spoke, we all listened.
“A lot of times, he didn’t even have to speak. He was just a physical, nasty player. The kind of guy you hate to go against, but you love to have on your team.”
Tobeck the prankster also was a frequent target of pranks, and pointed words from teammates. Like the time quarterback Matt Hasselbeck referred to him as a “hobbit.” But then Tobeck also could dish it out, as well as take it.
The prank-for-prank period that also included quarterback Trent Dilfer and, briefly, Grant Wistrom ended shortly after the defensive end was signed in 2004 and ratcheted the tomfoolery to a dangerously foolish level.
As Hasselbeck put it at the time, “We had to call a truce, before someone’s car ended up in Lake Washington.”
Hasselbeck also relented on his unflattering commentary toward Tobeck, offering, “We give Robbie a hard time, because it’s so easy. But he really is a good player, a good teammate and a very important part of the success we had.”
Tobeck has been retired the past four seasons, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t keeping busy. He is a partner in Griffin MacLean, a Bellevue-based insurance company where Tobeck worked in the offseason during his playing days. He has a Saturday morning fishing show on 710 ESPN and also sponsors tournaments.
“I really get my competitive juices flowing now by fishing,” he said. “It’s just that competition when you’re battling a big marlin. It’s me and that fish. When I got into fishing, I didn’t want to just be a guy who was a weekend warrior. I wanted to do more than that.”
Tobeck also attends activities involving his still-growing family – McKenzie, 17; Mason, 15; Mia, 13; and Madden, 11.
“That’s what’s really been fun for me,” he said. “More than anything, what’s really got me all gung-ho about the game again is watching Mason and Madden play. They’re playing real football now, and it’s a blast.
“I see so much of myself in Mason, as far as just walking around the house with the football in his hands and the love he has for the game.”
This from a guy who was a football player at his kindergarten graduation because, as Tobeck put it, “We were supposed to dress like that we wanted to be, and that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just loved it.”
One thing he doesn’t do is spend a lot of time playing the what-if game.
“I used to think that I’d like to play and start as long as I can, and then maybe get a free year or two where I could just backup and sit back and train young guys,” said Tobeck, who missed time his final season because of a staph infection.
“But I learned a lot about myself when I had that infection. That last half of the year I wasn’t playing, because I’d just gotten out of the hospital. But I dressed for the practices, and it drove me absolutely crazy not being involved in the actual getting ready for the game and not being in the huddle with my guys.
“I knew for my sanity, it wasn’t even worth trying to play another year.”