WABASHA, Minn. -- He'd sat in the third row of tables with his wife and two children at Slippery's Bar and Grill, smirking and tossing good-natured jabs at the teammates and coaches whose company was being auctioned off for an afternoon of fishing on the Mississippi River.
Now, it was Everson Griffen's turn to step on stage and convince others to bid.
"What's the highest bid?" Griffen said. "Whatever B-Rob got, I want to get more, because that's what we do."
Competition is a constant for the members of the NFL's most prolific pass-rushing defensive line, whether it's in tallying up quarterback sacks or passing time on plane trips to road games. And they all turned out for some more of it over the weekend, to salute the elder statesman of the group by raising money for a cause close to his heart.
Brian Robison, now the longest-tenured player on the Vikings' roster after the departures of Chad Greenway and Adrian Peterson, has morphed into a galvanizing force in the team's locker room. The 34-year-old's voice carries a little more weight, and invitations like the one Robison issued last weekend are quickly heeded.
The defensive end brought his Reel 'Em In Fishing Tournament to Minnesota for the first time, pairing professional anglers and Vikings players with fans who bid for spots in one of 12 boats on the Mississippi River on Saturday. The auction alone raised more than $25,000 for Robison's Reel 'Em In Foundation, which this year is partnered with an organization called K9s For Cops that helps law-enforcement agencies fund the purchase of K9 dogs.
The tournament, held on the weekend of Minnesota's annual fishing opener, featured four of Robison's fellow linemen -- Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson -- as well as quarterback Sam Bradford, wide receiver Adam Thielen, punt returner Marcus Sherels, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Hall of Famers Cris Doleman and John Randle also participated, as did former Vikings cornerback Carl Lee.
Robison was persistent during the start of the Vikings' offseason program to ensure he'd get a good turnout for his Minnesota event. But it was an easy sell, according to Johnson.
"B-Rob is one of those guys who's very enthusiastic," Johnson said. "You know he's very active and vocal about the things he's got going on. You know who he is, you know how he is. He's a brother, you want to be here for him and it's a great cause."
Held in an idyllic setting on the Mississippi River, home to the Walter Matthau-and-Jack Lemon movie "Grumpy Old Men," the tournament kicked off Minnesota's fishing season with sunshine and 80-degree weather, as boats dotted the waters underneath the rocky bluffs on either side of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border.
Bradford, Shurmur and Doleman all commanded more than $2,000 in Friday's auction, and Robison set the standard with a $2,800 bid that was goosed by the host's offer of several freebies. When Griffen got on the stage, determined to raise more money than Robison, bidding shot from $1,000 to $1,800 in 15 seconds, as the defensive end excitedly pointed at each bidder to raise their hand.
Griffen raised his shirt and flashed his torso as bidding stalled at $2,200, and grabbed the microphone to make one final plea, offering $100 of his own money to help close the gap. Robison did the same, but the bidder held at $2,200 and Robison retained his top spot (not counting a six-person fishing trip to Lake Fork, Texas, which commanded $4,000 once Robison offered to cover airfare).
He prevailed in the bidding, and he retained bragging rights over his linemate. But there was no glibness in Robison's voice as he reflected on how many teammates had made the 90-minute trip from the Twin Cities for the event. There was simply gratitude.
"It shows the type of guys we have in the Minnesota Vikings organization," Robison said. "Not only to come out on a weekend these guys have off, to support one of their fellow teammates, but to do it on Mother's Day weekend, of all weekends. That really shows the passion these guys have for giving back to their communities, and being good role models for the people that look up to them."