The star wideout was recently named the team’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, which honors a player’s impact through both charity work and on-the-field excellence. Robinson was nominated for his work with his charity, the Within Reach Foundation, which has allowed him to be heavily involved in the Chicagoland community since he signed with the Bears in 2018.
“That’s a true testament to everybody that participates within the foundation,” he said. “Not just me, though I’m the one that’s able to get credit for it—but with our board members, they spend their free time helping us out as far as getting us acclimated in the city, helping us plan and things like that. There’s a lot that goes into it, so I think it’s a true testament to everybody.”
Prior to signing with Chicago, Robinson played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it was there his charity was created. Upon making the decision to join the Bears in free agency, he found out that he was able to move his foundation to his new city rather seamlessly.
“I had started my foundation originally in Jacksonville, so we had been [working] in Jacksonville for two years,” he explained. “So I got word that I was able to move the foundation pretty quickly, that was definitely something I wanted to do. I wanted to get acclimated within the city as far as playing football and in the community.
“Chicago is very similar to Detroit—Detroit’s where I grew up—so being able to have an impact in the city here, I knew it would be big; that’s just as far as me wanted to do good in the community.”
The Within Reach Foundation aims to provide children who come from low-income and inner-city households in Chicago with educational opportunities and resources to help them grow academically.
“We’re big into education and into reading, Robinson said. “We have found the statistics as far as how many prison spots they’ll need and as far as starting to evaluate the potential incarceration rate based off of third-grade reading levels. For us, once we found out that information, we wanted to provide reading rooms...to further their education after school. That’s a pretty alarming stat to know that after third grade, a lot of kids will be in this demographic as far as potentially [being] on track to have a rough life.”
Since the foundation was created in 2016, Robinson has been able to make an impact in the lives of many children across the nation, being there to support them and helping them get on track to a better life.
“It’s a great feeling,” he told Windy City Gridiron. “Just seeing the excitement that for them, having a spot they can go to comfortably read or to be able to do things or have things that they may not necessarily have at their disposal otherwise.”
As an incentive for his foundation, Robinson decided that he would donate $120 to his charity for every catch he makes in the 2019 season. His performance on the field has allowed for plenty of donations, as his 83 receptions through 14 games brings his total to $9,960. He states that his impressive season has been beneficial both on and off the field.
“It feels great,” he said. “Especially having the community-based stuff, being a part of that. On the field, I feel great. Just being able to put in the work over the years to try to continue to elevate my game, to be able to have some success on the field. You go in there each and every season putting in a ton of work, so being able to flourish and to be healthy is definitely fun to go about the course of the season.”
In addition to his career-high 83 catches, Robinson currently has 1,023 yards and 7 touchdowns—both the second-highest totals of his career. His consistent play has provided the Bears with a legitimate No. 1 receiver that they had been lacking prior to his arrival.
Despite Robinson’s great season, Chicago has been unable to build off of their NFC North-winning campaign last year. They were officially eliminated from the playoff race on Sunday, when they lost to the Green Bay Packers and fell to 7-7 on the year. Though their postseason hopes came to a premature end, the wideout believes in his team going forward.
“I think we just stick together and continue to fight,” Robinson said. “I think that we have a lot of guys in our locker room that love to play the game of football. I think that’s a big thing because at the end of the day, that’s what we’re doing. We have the opportunity to go out there to do what we love in front of fans that appreciate us, and we appreciate them. It’s definitely something you can take for granted.
“We definitely will have a chip on our shoulder [next year],” he added. “I think that this season is not exactly how we wanted it to play out, but I think that we learned a lot about one another and about our team as far as the players we got in our locker room.
Plenty of factors could be attributed to the Bears’ regression in 2019, but among them is their trouble with injuries during the season. The likes of Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Kyle Long and Taylor Gabriel have all missed significant time due to injury, with several other key contributors battling through ailments, as well.
“We’ve been banged up a lot this year,” Robinson said. “I think we can count on two hands as far how many starters we had out...who started the season off for us—so we had a lot of guys replaced that played well for us. You have guys banged up and things like that, and it calls for a little bit of a rougher season. I feel that everybody who stepped in stepped in and did their job, and nobody complained, nobody did any of that. We just tried to improve each and every week.”
Still, the Bears have plenty to be excited about going forward. They have several young playmakers on both sides of the ball, many of whom being locked in for at least a few more years. Among them is Robinson’s fellow wide receiver Anthony Miller, who has made significant improvements in the second half of the season. After a slow start to the 2019 season, the second-year receiver has tallied 33 catches for 431 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last five games.
Robinson has been impressive with Miller’s development, as well as the hard work the 2018 second-round pick has put in to get better.
“I think it’s been special, as a player who plays alongside him, it’s fun to see him have success,” Robinson commented. “Especially with things early on in the season maybe not playing out as he wanted it, for whatever reason that was. Just knowing the work he’s put in, battling to come back from his shoulder [injury] at the end of last season, putting in the work in the offseason, going through the grind of the season to be able to continue to elevate your game.
“In this league, it’s a lot of rollercoaster-like weeks, and to be able to strain and have success, it’s not easy at all, so I think for him to be able to mentally compartmentalize all the things that he has to accomplish to impact the team and to be able to do that, I think it actually shows a lot more growth in just his mindset rather than the things he’s done on the field. I think it’s a great situation right now.”
Miller is locked in until 2021, but the three-year, $42 million contract that Robinson signed in March of 2018 is on track to expire a year before that. The veteran will be eligible for a contract extension when the offseason comes around, and though the Bears have a handful of key contributors with expiring contracts in the next two seasons, he figures to be one of their top priorities.
Robinson recently commented that he wishes to become the Bears’ all-time leading receiver, implying his interest in re-signing with the team. Though he admits that he hasn’t had much time to think about the possibility of a contract extension, he would hypothetically welcome extending his stay in Chicago.
“It’s still very early,” he said. “I haven’t thought too much about it [with] the end of the season, us having playoff aspirations and things like that, but eventually I think that’s definitely a possibility. I like Chicago, I love the work I’ve been doing here in the community, I love the community. It’s home for me, so I definitely love the place. Again, it’s very early. There’s a lot that goes on...I’m trying to take it day by day right now, just finish up the season. At some point in the offseason, that’ll probably be talked about a little bit more, so we’ll see how [things play out].”
Robinson’s on-the-field contributions indicate he is a player worth keeping going forward. With all of the children he has helped since coming to Chicago, such a move would certainly have a lot of support.
For more Allen Robinson, be sure to check out Bill Zimmerman’s podcast interview with him on his latest Bears Banter.