He spotted a plaque commemorating the 1976 Cotton Bowl team, and decided he had to have it.
“No you can’t,” his mom said. “Your dad played at South Carolina.”
Christian looked at her.
“But we’re in Georgia now,” he said.
That was the point the Robinson family should’ve known it was headed for a day like Saturday.
Christian is now a starting inside linebacker for No. 22 Georgia, which visits No. 24 South Carolina – where Kenneth Robinson played from 1982-86.
“Just thinking about making plays in the same place that my dad made plays, it just made me want to re-create those in a different way,” Christian said. “I want it to be a special game, and do it for my dad. Because I’m playing in his stadium.”
His father has a slightly different outlook. A torn one, just as he felt the day Christian committed to play for the Bulldogs. But he understood, thanks to his own experience going against his father’s wishes.
Kenneth, who grew up in Charleston, S.C. had two brothers play on Clemson’s 1980 national title team. Their father wanted Kenneth to follow them there, and he did initially commit to the Tigers. But Kenneth changed his mind the night before signing day.
So when Christian decided not to go to his dad’s alma mater, his dad stayed out of it.
“I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a part of me that wanted him to go South Carolina,” Kenneth said. “But I told him this had to be your decision.”
Kenneth was a star linebacker for South Carolina, leading the team in tackles twice, and he’s still seventh on the school’s all-time tackles list. Then he went on to a short career in the NFL.
But his timing was always a bit off, starting with his career as a Gamecock.
He broke his arm and missed the 1984 season, which ended up being one of the best in school history. His first year in the NFL, with the Washington Redskins, he broke his collarbone, and missed playing on the winning team in the Super Bowl.
“I got a Super Bowl watch,” Robinson said, laughing.
The Robinsons stayed in South Carolina for a few years, and Christian was born there. But they moved to Charlotte in the mid-90s, then settled in the Atlanta area in 1998.
Christian grew up hearing about his dad’s playing days, sometimes over the dinner table, sometimes when they would visit Williams-Brice Stadium. (Yes, Christian has already been there plenty of times.)
Other times, Christian would rummage through old tapes in the basement, and watch his dad playing in a Gamecock uniform.
But living in the Atlanta area, he started to pick up the Bulldog bug. His college decision came down to South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
“A lot of people thought I was gonna end up at South Carolina,” Christian said. “Ohio State, I heard they came down and heard, Oh his dad played at South Carolina, and they didn’t (pursue).”
Christian could lean on his father for close support, since he was his coach at Greater Atlanta Christian. (Kenneth was GAC’s head coach two seasons, following up a six-year stint as a GAC assistant, including four as defensive coordinator. He’s now the linebackers coach at Mountain View High in Lawrenceville.)
The son opted to stay close to home. He redshirted his freshman season after breaking his arm – just as his dad did in college. Christian played in 12 games last year, registering 19 tackles.
One weekend last year, when Georgia had a bye, South Carolina held a reunion for its 1984 “Black Magic” team. Christian attended with his dad, leading to a few startled looks when his father told them where his son went to school.
Kenneth also plans to be in attendance Saturday, driving up in a truck with a “House Divided, USC and UGA” license plate.
“I told him, one day you’ll understand when your kid goes to Alabama,” Kenneth said, laughing.
Oh, and that plaque that the adolescent Robinson bought from the yard sale?
“If you walk in his apartment,” Kenneth said, “That is still in there today.”
is a big deal to him.”
They spoke Tuesday night on the phone, and he’s really, really excited.