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Unique name, big talent make GAC's Hebert stand out on lines

Moments after his birth, Bobby Joseph Hebert III got the distinctive name he still goes by in everyday life.

His great grandmother, a true Cajun, made the call. Birdie Hebert, a fur trapper and a shrimp fisherman in her time, decided the family's newest offspring would have a very fitting name for Louisiana natives who follow the Acadian culture.

So she dubbed him T-Bob, a shortening of the Cajun French word, petite, which translates to tiny or little. The name didn't sound so unusual to T-Bob's father, NFL quarterback Bobby Hebert, a Cut Off, La. native who had friends growing up named T-Mel, T-Doug and T-John, usually sons who took their father's names.

"(Birdie Hebert) told me, 'You have a T-Bob,'" said Bobby Hebert, who has two daughters older and one son younger than T-Bob. "I told (my wife) Teresa, 'It's what my grandmother wants. We have to call him T-Bob.'"

From that day forward, he was known as T-Bob. To his friends, to his teachers, to everybody. Even college football recruiters, now in pursuit of the Greater Atlanta Christian junior, send letters to "T-Bob Hebert."

A dominant two-way lineman for the 8-0 Spartans, his great grandmother's idea for a name isn't as fitting as it once was for a kid who has grown to 6-foot-3, 260 pounds.

"That's what's ironic about how I got my name, in French (petite) means tiny," said Hebert, whose last name is pronounced A-bare. "I go by T-Bob with everybody. It's a pretty cool name. I like it."

Although he's named after his father, who is Bobby Joseph Hebert Jr., and he plays the same sport, it was clear from an earlier age that the two wouldn't share the same position. A rangy quarterback, Bobby Hebert played with barely more than 200 pounds on his 6-4 frame.

His younger son Bo, a quarterback on GAC's eighth-grade team, shares dad's build. T-Bob outweighs his old man by quite a bit.

From the time he first played football as a 9-year-old, he was more of the noseguard/center mold. Former GAC head football coach Jim Lofton jokes with the standout lineman that he should be called B-Bob, as in Big Bob, instead of T-Bob.

"T-Bob's more like my cousins," said Bobby Hebert, who had cousins play noseguard at Tulane and offensive guard at Louisiana-Lafayette. "The craziest thing about (his size) is that Cajun men are usually medium sized, like 5-9 or 5-10. But the Heberts are pretty big. We're almost all Catholic down there. If you saw somebody in church, some big guy whose head was higher, he was a first cousin or a second cousin (of mine). People always knew the Heberts were big. I'm almost like the runt of the Heberts."

But the one-time Pro Bowl quarterback, a hero in Cajun country, didn't spawn a small child. Instead his firstborn was a big kid, one who gravitated to line play. Instead of feeling pressure as the son of an NFL signal-caller, T-Bob Hebert considered it an advantage. Some of his dad's former NFL teammates - guys like Roman Fortin, Dan Owens, Mike Reuther and Brad Leggett - still work with the youngster to this day on technique and training.

"A lot of people ask why I'm not playing quarterback like (my dad)," Hebert said. "I was just born bigger. I have a lineman's body. And I've always loved the line. I just enjoy playing it. I like the contact."

It's worked out pretty well for GAC, too. Hebert, also adept as a long snapper, anchors the team's offensive line at center and plays a big role on defense at noseguard and tackle.

He typically gets breaks by sitting out a few plays on defense, but GAC head coach Jimmy Chupp said his rest time will be limited in this Friday's Region 8-AA title showdown at Buford.

"(Hebert's) just one of those kids who is so passionate about things," Chupp said. "You could tell he was special when he was young. He was always talking, always wanting to do well. A lot of kids wait until they're seniors to be leaders. But as a junior he's already a leader on our team. He was a leader as a sophomore."

The college recruiters, one in particular, know plenty about Hebert. He worked out well in several camps last summer - he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.97 seconds, good for a 260-pound lineman - to spark interest from colleges.

A longtime LSU fan, he said another school, Ole Miss, tops his list of favorites because of longtime ties between the Rebels' new head coach, Ed Orgeron, and his dad. The elder Hebert and Orgeron lived close to each other as kids, helped the South Lafourche (La.) Tarpons win the 1977 Class 4A football title and were roommates and teammates for four years at Northwestern State (La.).

"College football is definitely what I want the next step for me to be," Hebert said. "I really want to play D-I football. It's been a dream of mine."

Chupp's program has turned out some big-time college players in recent years - Georgia fullback Brannan Southerland and Wake Forest tailback Micah Andrews among others - and the coach said he expects Hebert to follow in their footsteps as an early-offer, D-I prospect.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's a big (college) prospect," Chupp said. "I haven't talked with a lot of coaches about him yet, but I've given his name to a lot of them and he's getting a lot of letters. And relative to the other (college) kids we've coached here before, he's a Division I-A player. For sure."