ATHENS – Christian Robinson is in this awkward position this week, gameplanning and trying to find the weaknesses of men he still thinks of as brothers, because he went to a wedding.
It was the spring of 2015, and Robinson thought he was done with football. He had played four seasons at Georgia, becoming a visible personality in Athens, then spent one year as a Bulldogs graduate assistant. But now he thought he wanted to go into something else, and was about to sign a contract with a social-media company in Nashville, when on the spur of the moment he went to a friend’s wedding in Memphis.
The bride’s brother, it turned out, worked at Ole Miss, and remembered Robinson’s playing days at Georgia. One thing led to another, and one day shortly afterward Hugh Freeze was calling Robinson, asking if he wanted to be a graduate assistant. He took it, and since then Robinson has worked with Ole Miss’ defensive line.
“I’m very different from the way I was in Athens,” Robinson said Wednesday night, after Ole Miss’ practice. “When you’re around the same people in Athens you don’t change as much. Here I think I’ve grown up a lot.”
But the branching-out now leaves Robinson facing not only his alma mater Saturday, but many players he knows well and even helped coach.
“Oh man, C-Rob played a big part in who I am,” Georgia junior inside linebacker Reggie Carter, who wears the No. 45 that Robinson wore at Georgia from 2009-12. “”He helped me so much. I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for C-Rob.”
There are others: Outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy know him well, as does inside linebacker Roquan Smith, whom Robinson helped recruit. Dominick Sanders and Malkom Parrish were freshmen when Robinson, as a GA in 2014, worked with the defensive backs. Robinson even knows Kirby Smart, who recruited him when he was Alabama’s defensive coordinator.
“I ran into Nick (Chubb) in July when I was home,” Robinson said. “Those guys look at me as brothers because I never tried to boss them around, I just had to hold them accountable like an older teammate would. I think that’s the greatest thing about the relationship we had.”
But it also may give Ole Miss an edge as it prepared for Georgia.
Robinson has insight on those same players, so while the film may show some strengths and weaknesses, he can provide some other tidbits.
“It’s weird,” Robinson said, when asked what it’s like to gameplan for a game against his friends. “But I think it’s also just like any opponent. You try each week to know them, know who they are, know their faces, know their tendencies. On a personal level, not so much scheme anymore, you understand who they are, and what makes them tick. When I talk to our guys, I’m able to tell them what’s real, and sometimes when you watch film, you might slack off on your opponent.
“But I know who the opponent is. So anytime you have an SEC team coming in it’s a big game, but knowing who’s coming and how they’re motivated, and how hard they work, it just pushes me anymore to make sure those guys are working hard, and not slacking as they’re getting ready for this game.”
Robinson started 17 games and recorded 159 tackles as a Bulldog, but his impact went further than that. He was one of the team’s more visible players, active on social media when it was just becoming a big thing. He was roommates and close friends with star quarterback Aaron Murray, and the winner of the media’s “Good Guy” award, for being the best interview. Robinson seemed to know everybody, and always had a smile on his face.
After briefly pursuing an NFL career as an undrafted free agent, Robinson returned to Georgia when Mark Richt offered him a chance to be a graduate assistant in 2014. He worked with Jeremy Pruitt – who Robinson saw last week when Alabama visited Oxford.
But facing Georgia, well that obviously is a whole different level of familiarity.
“It’s definitely gonna make me be a little more pumped up,” Robinson said. “From the moment someone steps on the field I know almost everybody over there, besides the new additions. It’s going to be competitive. I want to win. I don’t want to have to come home and wonder about people messing with me. That’s every opponent, but it’s moreso now that I know the faces.”
This will be the final year that Robinson can be a graduate assistant. He hopes to latch on somewhere as a position coach afterward.
Those who know him have no doubt he can do it.
“Coach Robinson, he’s smart. He knows his football,” Reggie Carter said. “Ole Miss got a steal with him.”