Robbie Tobeck had his friend and Seattle Seahawks teammate Steve Hutchinson over for dinner one night. His youngest son exclaimed from below the giant-like men.
“He goes, ‘Dad, check this out,’” Tobeck recalled. “And he just closes his eyes and takes off running.
“And, of course, he runs straight into the fire place.”
His father didn’t know it at the time, but Madden Tobeck was showing early signs he could play running back. The toddler just shook himself off – not even a tear.
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“And he just walks off and Hutch is like, ‘You see this kid!?’” Robbie Tobeck said. “Yeah – things like that were always fun.”
Not everyone gets to grow up around NFL players.
Madden Tobeck remembers heading into the Seahawks locker room after games to talk to some of his favorite players – Hutchinson, Chris Gray and Matt Hasselbeck. He rode in a bus with a police escort on their way to Super Bowl XL, when his father’s Seahawks were preparing to play the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Oh yeah, that was awesome,” said Madden, whose long blonde hair would certainly make the bald Hasselbeck jealous. “It was definitely cool having a dad who played in the NFL. I got to do a lot of stuff growing up that I know is pretty cool.”
But he has his own playing aspirations.
Both Tobeck and Walter Jones have sons who are seniors this year. Walterius Jones is an offensive and defensive lineman at Lake Washington, and Madden Tobeck has at least 100 rushing yards every game so far for the Puyallup-based Class 1A Cascade Christian football team. Last week he needed five carries to get 165 yards.
Just like dad.
Not exactly. But, believe it or not, Robbie Tobeck said he was a running back in high school before he went on to play at Washington State University and then a famed 14-year NFL career as a center with the Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons – playing in a Super Bowl with both teams.
He was asked how his yards-per-carry average compared to his son’s stunning 14.4.
“It was probably 14.5,” Robbie Tobeck deadpanned.
Madden is the last of the Tobeck line, and he’s now more than halfway through his senior year. He has the fourth-most rushing yards (893) of anyone in the South Sound so far despite way fewer carries (62) than those ahead of him.
Robbie Tobeck’s other son, Mason, was an all-state linebacker and tight end for Cascade Christian. He’s now a redshirt sophomore linebacker at Utah State. Robbie will split his weekends watching Madden’s games and flying the next day to wherever Mason is.
But Madden played just one quarter last year before breaking his ankle. He didn’t return until the final game of the season, so he is lacking in film to send to colleges.
“I’m just keeping my options open and seeing whatever happens, recruiting-wise,” Madden said.
He has an underrecruited-to-big-time example in his father.
Robbie Tobeck’s high school was smaller than Madden’s. He attended New Port Richey Christian in Florida and had 14 kids in his class. They had a flag football team, but no tackle one, until his senior year when he played running back and linebacker.
He also played basketball. He attended a Pro Athletes for Christ basketball game when one of the teams had just five players and was looking for a fifth. Jack Thompson, who was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, spotted Tobeck with some high tops and shorts.
“And he’s like, ‘Hey, want to play on our team?’” Tobeck recalled. “This was a guy I had a poster of on my bedroom wall. I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll play.’”
And Thompson took a mentorship role over Tobeck after that. The former Throwin’ Samoan WSU quarterback is a godfather to Tobeck’s kids. Madden’s middle name is Jack.
So Robbie headed to Liberty University in Virginia, then Kilgore Junior College in Texas and eventually landed at WSU. During that span he said he went from running back, to fullback, to 230-pound linebacker, to 250-pound defensive end to 265-pound center.
Madden was born in 1999 – just after Tobeck’s first Super Bowl trip with the Falcons, where he signed as an undrafted free agent.
Nowadays, Robbie Tobeck doesn’t look at all like the Pro Bowl center he once was. He said he’s lost 80 pounds from his playing weight. Current Seahawks center Justin Britt invited him to help out at a camp recently and Britt didn’t recognize who the svelte Robbie was. He’s since taken Britt and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable out fishing – a Tobeck family love – and gotten to know each other better. Tobeck owns an insurance company and lives next to the VMAC along Lake Washington.
“I’ve seen video of him dunking,” Madden said.
So if this running back thing doesn’t work out for Madden … maybe center?
“Probably not,” Madden laughed. But he did say he thinks he could play receiver, safety or linebacker.
“Madden is a step faster than I was,” Robbie said. “So I think he has a shot. He’s always had ability. Me, him and Mason would be in the street playing when they were little and he would make these one-handed catches as a 5- or 6-year-old that would turn my head like, ‘What?’”
After Mason Tobeck led Cascade Christian to a 14-0 season and the 1A state title in 2014, Madden spent his sophomore season leading the Cougars in rushing with 614 yards on 72 carries.
But he didn’t finish the first quarter of his first game last year before he broke his ankle. They weren’t sure how bad it was until they visited a specialist his father knew from the Seahawks. The injury made Madden realize just how much he wants to play.
“I think he just wants to prove himself,” Cascade Christian coach Randy Davis said. “He’s proving to himself that he can play and he’s got a love for the game now.
“He’s the whole package. He’s the fastest kid on the team and he’s really dedicated himself this year. Last year – that’s hard when you miss a whole year. It really plays with you and how much you are into this. But he really dedicated himself to the weight room.”
He’s also one of the team captains.
“What’s fun for me is what Mason does, and you see Madden doing some of these things, too, is being able to coach yourself,” Robbie Tobeck said. “When I played, before the coach got to me and is rewinding the film I had already coached myself. I knew, ‘Oh, man, that’s a bad step, or my pads are too high.’ And Madden holds himself to a standard, too.”
Besides, Robbie Tobeck had learned to prepare himself for the impending wrath of Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren.
“Oh, his reactions were immediate. They were on the sideline,” he said. “You didn’t have to wait for the film.”
It’s a game Madden (not named after John Madden), Mason, McKenzie and Mia grew up in, and Robbie is proud to say he lasted long enough in the NFL that his kids can remember watching him play. But Madden said he never felt the pressure to play just because his father did.
“I would have played regardless of my dad’s history in this,” Madden said. “I never have felt any sort of pressure to play or anything like that.
“I’m glad I’ve had his guidance in my life, and in football. He played in the NFL – so he knows what he’s talking about.”
And for Robbie, he says he’s looking forward to being an empty nester.
“I feel like I was way smarter, way more responsible, way better prepared than him,” he joked. “But, really, it’s been fun to watch them have those experiences and ones I got to have, especially through athletics and the great things being on a football team offers and the things that benefit you later in life. I’m just glad they’ve been willing to commit to playing football because it’s definitely not easy.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677