While playing pop warner football in Texas from 4th-8th grade, A'Shawn Robinson was so big for his age that his mother had to bring his birth certificate to every game to prove he was indeed playing with the group of peers.
"They thought I was a high school kid trying to play middle school," Robinson said on a video conference Thursday, laughing.
That size paved the way for a scholarship and standout three-year career at Alabama and becoming a second-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2016. Today, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Robinson is one of the newest members of the Rams defense.
Besides boasting a frame that will help Los Angeles' run defense, Robinson also brings a sense of familiarity.
While he spent his first four years in the NFL in Detroit, he was already well-acquainted with L.A. defensive tackle Aaron Donald and safety John Johnson III by way of working out at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. He said most of the players he worked out with there were Rams players.
"At Mamba, (Aaron and I) worked out a little bit right before all this happened, so I got to talk to him a little bit," Robinson said. "Being in the meetings, talking to him, (Michael) Brockers and the rest of the guys, it's been cool getting to know everybody."
As Robinson alluded to, the COVID-19 pandemic caused public gyms and private NFL team facilities to shut down, with access limited to essential medical personnel and players with rehab needs. The circumstances also prevent players from getting on-field reps with their teams.
The on-field work can be made up during training camp, according to Robinson. Although virtual meetings are helpful getting to know his new teammates, there is a benefit to interpersonal interaction during that portion of a normal offseason program.
"Just getting there and really getting to hang out and know those guys, on and off the field, to really see that body language on and off the field, you're missing that to connect," Robinson said.
From a strength-and-conditioning standpoint, Robinson is staying in shape by working out at his friends' home gyms.
"With them not having wives and kids and it just being me and them, I can go work out and still be able to get it in," Robinson said. "Still go on runs and still get cardio in, ride a bike."
Robinson said the opportunity to play alongside the 6-5, 300-pound Brockers and 6-1, 280 Donald is a "great one."
"What I already can bring, I feel like I can contribute a little bit more learning some things from (Donald)," Robinson said. "Having Brockers there, being another older guy I can learn some things from him, too."