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"I need to set the example"
Humble GAC star ready to take on leadership role

NORCROSS - This is not an insult by any means, so please don't take it as such.

But Christian Robinson just doesn't seem like he would be a great linebacker.

Sure, he's big, fast, strong, athletic and comes from great genes - his father Ken played in the NFL and his cousins (Rock and Brandon Robinson) starred at Collins Hill, but Robinson just doesn't strike you as a Division I-caliber athlete.

And that's not because he doesn't make plays. The University of Georgia commit makes plenty of them on both sides of the ball.

It's because he's impossibly nice and exceedingly humble - traits that aren't typically associated with blue-chip linebacker prospects.

Take for instance this quote when discussing his recruitment:

"I didn't want to be a distraction for my team because we have seven other seniors that are just as important as I am," said Robinson, who committed to the Bulldogs on May 29. "Those guys are my teammates, they are my family and I didn't want to be viewed as a bigger part (of the team) than they are.

"I kind of thought about committing in the spring, but I changed my mind because there are some really good players on this team, that other colleges are now going to be looking at, because they came out to watch me practice (in the spring). I wish each of these guys could play college football, too."

Or this quote when discussing how much attention will be focused on him this season:

"Yeah, but I'm just trying to divert that a little bit," he said, "if GAC gets attention, that's what I'm happy about. The main thing for me is I want to be treated as equal to those other guys I'm playing with. I don't want to put myself higher than them."

His comments were so original, so unique that Robinson had to be asked a simple question: Was he really this humble or was he putting on a show for a newspaper reporter? Certainly he couldn't really be this polite and thoughtful, could he?

After all, he's a teenager. And a blue-chip, superstar teenager at that. So this couldn't be for real - it has to be an act, right?

"It's not a show," he said with a smile. "I promise it's not."

Even on the football field, where straight-laced kids routinely turn into frothing maniacs on Friday nights, Robinson tries to keep things civil.

"I only talk trash if you talk trash to me," he said, "and I'm not going to go out of my way to hit somebody that doesn't need to be hit."

That's just not how Robinson is built.

His head coach, Jimmy Chupp, says the GAC star has been a great kid and teammate ever since he joined the program in the seventh grade. That's the year he served as the ball boy for the 2002 Spartans, who made it all the way to the state championship game against Buford.

"You knew then there was a possibility that he could be a special athlete," Chupp remembers, "but what I really knew was that he was a great kid. He was a small, pudgy-faced 12-year-old, but he was just a great kid. That overshadowed everything, and that's the predominant thing about Christian Robinson."

Robinson's life is a bit different than it was during those pudgy-faced days.

Not only is his father now the defensive coordinator at GAC, but all of the chubbiness of his youth has disappeared.

He is a muscular 6-foot-3, 210-pound tackling machine that was one of the first linebackers UGA offered for the 2008 recruiting class. He will be expected to dominate, on both sides of the ball, for the inexperienced Spartans this season. Robinson is the leading returning tackler and pass-catcher from last year, and he knows there will be pressure on his shoulders in 2007.

"I've been put in a leadership position," he said, "and since I'm a leader I need to set the example by making plays."

Of course, he's used to pressure.

Being the son of a former NFL player has its privileges for sure, like those aforementioned genes, but it also has a downside. Not only was he always expected to be one of the best players on the field because of his last name, but many football fans - most notably from the state of South Carolina - also expected him to carry on that name's legacy in college.

Ken Robinson was a star linebacker for the Gamecocks in the mid-1980s before playing for the Washington Redskins in the NFL, and legions of South Carolina fans were hoping Ken's son would follow in his rather large footsteps in Columbia.

Instead, Christian is taking his own footsteps to Athens.

"I hope to be like him," Christian said, "but if you don't live up to it then that would have been difficult to deal with. Going to a different place, I might still get mentioned as 'Ken Robinson's son,' but it's kind of my own path."

Said Ken: "He made the right decision. I told Coach (Mark) Richt that. I told him, 'I'll be honest with you. If he would have chosen South Carolina I would have grieved for him. He chose Georgia, so now I'm grieving for me.'

"I'm a Gamecock fan, but as his father I think he made the decision."

The younger Robinson wanted to pave his own way in college, to have his career stand on its own without constantly being compared to his father. But more than anything, he wanted to play in front of his family, friends and former GAC classmates.

He'll get that wish now, suiting up for his home-state team, in the toughest conference in America, in a stadium that seats over 90,000 people.

So as it turns out, nice guys don't always finish last.