Mount Laurel native Dave Robinson, a smart, tough, physical play-making linebacker with Vince Lombardi’s Super Bowl-champion Packers in the 1960s, was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a senior candidate Saturday.
Robinson is the second South Jersey native to go into the Hall, following Mount Holly native Franco Harris, and he’s the 22nd member of the Packers to be picked for football’s highest honor.
“When you wait this long, it gets a little sweeter,” Robinson said in a story on Packers.com, the Packers' official web site. “When you wait a long time, you gain a great deal of appreciation for what it really means to get in the Hall of Fame. I was 14 years old when I started playing football, and this is it. I can’t go any higher.”
Robinson, a left outside linebacker, was a staple of the tremendous Packers defenses of the 1960s. In his first five years in Green Bay, the Packers went 50-16 with an NFL Championship and two Super Bowl championships, and in his first seven years with the Packers, the Green Bay defense was ranked No. 1 in the NFL three times, No. 2 twice, No. 3 once and No. 4 once.
He joins close friends Herb Adderly, a Philadelphia native and the Packers' left cornerback, and Willie Davis, the Packers' left defensive end, as the third member of that close-knit group to be accorded pro football's highest honor. Adderly was inducted in 1980 and Davis in 1981.
“I have never really felt the full satisfaction for me being in the Hall of Fame without Dave being in there, and I would have felt the same way if Willie Davis wasn’t in there,” Adderley said, according to quotes distributed by the Packers. “With Dave making it, it solidifies my feelings about the three of us and how we played together, shutting down the run and the pass. Whenever I talk to Willie or Dave, it always comes up, how we shut down the left side of the field.”
Robinson was the first African-American linebacker to start in the NFL and was named to the NFL’s Team of the 1960s. He’s also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Packers Hall of Fame.
“I never played with someone that was more knowledgeable,” Davis said. “I would say that the greatest thing about him was how physical he was. I can tell you right now, there wasn’t a tight end that didn’t have great respect for Dave. They gave him that respect because of how he played.”
Robinson, 71, grew up in Mount Laurel but attended Moorestown High School because Lenape had yet to open. He was a four-sport star at Moorestown High School, where he played on three consecutive undefeated state championship football teams before graduating in 1959. He also played on Moorestown’s undefeated state Group 3 championship basketball team in 1959.
At Penn State, Robinson was an All-America two-way end in the early 1960s before getting drafted in 1963 by the Packers.
In his 12-year career as an outside linebacker, Robinson made three Pro Bowls, was all-pro three times and picked off 27 passes.
During his 12 years in the NFL – 10 with the Packers, two with the Redskins – only one linebacker, Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, had more interceptions (30). When he retired in 1974, Robinson ranked fifth in NFL history in INTs by a linebacker and even today – 38 years after he last played – Robinson is still tied for 12th in interceptions by a linebacker.
“The things that made him a great linebacker were his size, speed and intelligence,” Adderley said. “Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but Dave never made the same mistake twice. He was a great team player.”
After he retired, Robinson started a beer distributorship in Akron, Ohio, located just 20 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He’s lived in Canton for nearly 30 years.
Robinson will be the sixth New Jersey native inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, following Trenton’s Elvin Bethea, Woodbridge’s Lou Creekmur, Jim Ringo of Orange, Mount Holly’s Harris and former Eagle Alex Wojciechowicz of South River.
Robinson was nominated by the Hall of Fame’s Senior Committee Meeting but selected by the same selection committee in New Orleans that picked the other members of this year’s class, including former Eagle wide receiver Cris Carter. Candidates must receive at least 80 percent of the vote by the media panel that convened Saturday to become Hall of Famers.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website, Robinson was never a finalist as a conventional nominee. Senior nominees are not eligible until they’ve been retired for at least 25 years.
The 51st annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for Aug. 3 at Fawcett Stadium, which is adjacent to the Hall of Fame in Canton. The teams that will play in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 4 have not yet been named.
“On behalf of the Green Bay Packers, I want to congratulate Dave on his well-deserved election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Packers President Mark Murphy said on the team’s website.
“He was such a vital part of those great defenses in the 1960s that helped the team win NFL championships and Super Bowl titles under Vince Lombardi. Dave’s contributions to the Packers have not been limited to the field, as he has also been a great ambassador for the organization over the years. We are thrilled that he received this honor.”