Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Grayson running back and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche has committed to play for Clemson next season.
This is one of six features on the Daily Post's Super Six selections for high school football. To see all six athletes, click HERE.
THE NKEMDICHE FILE
• Name: Robert Nkemdiche
• School: Grayson
• Class: Senior
• Position: Defensive end/running back
• Height: 6-foot-5
• Weight: 280 pounds
• College choice: Clemson
• Nickname: Porkchop
• Place of birth: Georgia
• Role model: Will Smith and father
• Favorite restaurant: None
• Favorite store: Zara
• Favorite teachers: Courtney O’Brien, Kelly Heard, Jill McGarvey, Lisa Spence, Jeanette Schiffmann
• Favorite subject: Social Studies
• Text messages he sends a month: 1,000,000
• Twitter handle: @Robertusmagna_1
• Superstitions: None
• Life’s dream: To play in the NFL
• Info file: The Clemson commitment is the nation’s No. 1 college recruit. He’s posted consecutive 18-sack seasons despite regularly drawing double teams. Nkemdiche is also a force of offense at running back, rushing for 528 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead Grayson to the Class AAAAA state championship last season.
• Coach Mickey Conn’s take: “Right now he’s just a better athlete than everybody and he’s just going. He needs to learn to recognize the formations and what they are trying to do with him and the techniques that will help him defeat double teams.”
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By now if you've followed high school football, you've heard of Grayson's Robert Nkemdiche.
Maybe you've watched the 6-foot-5, 280-pounder wreak havoc on opposing teams the last two years.
Or you've read about his recruiting saga over the summer.
Then there's the softer side of Nkemdiche. The 17-year-old, who goes to little kids' birthday parties, helps donate shoes and books for charity or spends time talking to students at the middle school.
"Robert is a gentle giant and when the lights come on he's going a hundred miles an hour," Grayson head coach Mickey Conn said. "But at the same time when a 5-year-old kid walks up to him, he hugs on him, loves on him and plays with him."
Nkemdiche is the greatest football player to ever come through Gwinnett County and he's arguably the best Georgia has ever produced. He's rated the No. 1 college football prospect in the country and has committed to Clemson. Nkemdiche has posted consecutive 18-sack seasons as a defensive end. He rushed for 528 yards and 17 touchdowns to lead Grayson to the Class AAAAA state championship last season.
All of that success has made Nkemdiche the biggest celebrity the Grayson community has ever seen.
"Words can't explain how proud I am of him," said Denzel Nkemdiche, Robert's older brother and a sophomore at Ole Miss. "It makes me happy to know he's the man, but he's still working like he's in last place."
Nkemdiche's popularity has grown beyond just Gwinnett County, though. When he made his surprise commitment to Clemson in June, it gained so much attention that Nkemdiche was trending on Twitter at one point.
His summer was filled with workouts with his teammates at Grayson, 7-on-7 passing tournaments where he was used regularly as a receiver and media interviews. Every week Nkemdiche had a reporter, recruiting service, photographer or television crew at school to talk to him. Some of them took as long as six hours.
"I've done so many (interviews). It's crazy," Nkemdiche said.
All of the attention has prompted Conn to consider having a security guard walk Nkemdiche off the field after games and set up an area in the field house for interviews with the Rams' star.
"The thing about Robert that a lot of people don't understand -- most people just see all of the popularity and the attention he's getting," Conn said. "He's getting pulled in so many directions."
Even with all the fame and notoriety, Conn claims Nkemdiche hasn't changed a bit and he definitely doesn't get special treatment. If he's late to a meeting or doesn't keep his locker clean, he has post-practice conditioning like every other player.
"He's here every day. He's not dressing different, he's not doing anything different than he already did before," Conn said. "He's still the same person. He's just getting the attention. He's not acting any different. He's not haughty, he's not proud. I'm sure he's excited about it, but he's not the type to rub it in anybody's nose."
Nkemdiche has found a way to use his fame to help others in the Grayson community. Little kids will shower him with high fives and hugs after football games. Some have even invited him to their birthday party, which he politely obliged. Nkemdiche signed autographs, took pictures and let kids try on his state championship ring.
"I was like, Man, this is another chance to make another kid's day,'" Nkemdiche said. "I'm happy I made his day. I like seeing smiles on little kids' faces. That's what I like doing. I'm happy he got to have me there."
Nkemdiche is also a regular fixture at Bay Creek Middle School, which feeds into Grayson, and talks to the students about school and football. He spends time volunteering at canned food drives or passing out books and shoes to needy people. He also plans to help coach the 6-year-old Grayson football team this fall. It's that kind of involvement in the community that keeps him level headed and reminds him there's more to life than just football.
"That's one of my biggest goals. I like to practice staying humble," Nkemdiche said. "I like seeing smiles on other people's faces. I always want to bring someone else up. I always want to make someone feel as close to me as they can. I don't want anyone to think I'm out of their league, so I stay levelheaded."
If anyone ever felt Nkemdiche did things for the attention, just look at his college announcement. It was a random Wednesday in June when he committed to Clemson over Alabama, LSU and Georgia. It was nearly eight months before National Signing Day. There was no dramatic press conference where he picked a hat and answered dozens of media questions. He committed in Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney's office and that was it.
"Robert is not concerned with what the media thinks about him," Conn said. "He's more concerned about what he feels in his heart. About what is right. I think on that trip to Clemson, he felt it was right for him to be a Clemson Tiger."
All of the off-the-field stuff hasn't made Nkemdiche lose sight of his on-field goals. Grayson has a chance to cement itself as one of the best programs in Georgia history. The Rams are ranked No. 2 in the nation by MaxPreps and No. 6 by USA Today, giving them a good shot a winning a mythical national championship. It's something Nkemdiche is fully aware of this season.
"We're going for the state championship of course, and we're also going for a national championship as well," Nkemdiche said. "I feel like none of us are complacent and we're all working really hard right now. We have a great team right now. We're working towards a national championship team."