By Gabriel Stovall
LOVEJOY, Ga. — If you haven’t paid attention lately to Randy Robinson’s Twitter page, his Twitter name will tell you all he wants you to know about how he wants to be remembered at Lovejoy.
It says “Randy The Good Guy.”
But don’t call it hubris or egotistical. It actually took Randy’s girlfriend to help him acknowledge this quality about himself.
“I was just talking to my girlfriend and she told me, ‘You know what, you’re just a really good guy,'” Robinson said. “You’re a sweetheart. You’re just an all around good guy.”
And Robinson did what most smart men who want to stay in good with their significant others do. He agreed.
“I told her, ‘You know what, Honey. You’re right. I am a pretty good guy,'” he said in between laughs.
The thing about it though is she was telling the truth. Randy Robinson is a good guy. Not just a good football player. Not just a good offensive and defensive linemen, or even just a good student.
Robinson is one of those players who seems to wear his heart on the exterior at all times — in a good way.
I remember the first time I saw Robinson on the Lovejoy football field, and I remember why he caught my attention. He had on a white practice shirt that said “NEBRASKA” in big, block red letters across the chest.
Being from Nebraska, and growing up a Nebraska football fan, I got curious — if not a bit excited — and I asked him about it.
Maybe he’d give me some cool story about how he found the shirt after having a recruiting visit from a Nebraska coach. Maybe I’d get the inside scoop on the college interest of one of the south side’s best young linemen.
Or maybe it was just a big, meaningless coincidence.
“Oh, this shirt? I just found it when I was going through a bunch of old football shirts, trying to find something to wear for practice,” Robinson, then a freshman, said to me when I inquired about it.
So much for my big hometown connection moment. Although Robinson exuded no interest whatsoever in my home state football team, I never lost interest in watching him as a player. And I’ve liked what I’ve seen of him, both on and off the field.
Robinson ended up signing with Jacksonville State in neighboring Alabama. A long way away from Nebraska. But he’s one of those players that will be entrenched in my sports reporting mind for a long time to come.
It’s not just the fact that he anchored the offensive lines of arguably two of the best football teams in Lovejoy history. Those 2011 and 2012 teams were just a few plays and a couple of breaks away from winning state champions in consecutive years.
He played center on the offensive line — a position that then-head coach Al Hughes used to say was like “the quarterback of the offensive line.”
That’s pretty heady stuff for a 14 or 15 year old kid to shoulder while battling against some of the best football players in Georgia and the Southeast. But Robinson not only excelled at what he did, he did it with the right spirit.
He always handled media interviews with the graciousness and maturity of one who’d been doing it on a high level for a long, long time. No matter how good he got, you could still see a humble spirit upon him. Yet he was also just as intense as any other mean cuss you’d find on a football field full of supremely gifted athletes.
His story about his success in spite of dealing with his dad’s death is the stuff of legends. But Friday during Lovejoy’s spring game, he added another piece to his personal lore — at least as far as I’m concerned.
As the Wildcats were getting their spring tune-up on, Robinson was on the sidelines with former Wildcats like JuMichael Ramos, now at North Carolina State, and others who took a break from college life to come back and do some virtual reminiscing at Twelve Oaks Stadium.
Except while the others were simply watching and slapping hands with one another as they got reacquainted, Robinson was pacing up and down the sidelines, barking out orders slapping helmets in congratulatory fashion and dishing out encouraging words and pointers to Lovejoy’s offensive line.
He looked like a natural coach. And the reason why he decided to offer himself in such a way when he could’ve been doing anything else with his free time now that he’s soon to graduate, was also natural.
“At the beginning of spring ball, Coach Carson asked me to come out and help,” Robinson said. “I was really honored to go out and help him coach.”
Carson, who’s in the process of shifting his staff a bit as a second-year head coach, has yet to hire an offensive line coach, so he called on the 2014 team’s best linemen to help fill in the gap. And apparently Robinson’s tutelage was a hit to some of the linemen expected to help fill his void in 2015.
“It was awesome,” said rising senior Tirrell Ponder. “Randy taught me a lot over the spring and helped give me better technique and just a lot to make me a better player.”
But wouldn’t it have been awkward to be somewhat of an authority figure to guys who were your fellow teammates just a few months ago?
Robinson says, nah.
“They listened,” Robinson said. “They really listened to me. I’m a strict coach. I like to play. I like to have fun, but when it’s time to work, it’s time to work. When we come out there, from 4:00 to 6:30, we’re trying to get better every day. We’re working, whether it’s on getting to the outside faster, getting better in our stances, better in helping on the outside or getting to linebackers faster, there shouldn’t be a day that goes by that we stay the same.”
Ponder, one of several players Robinson said he felt could really be a force on next season’s offensive line, can attest to the fact that Robinson’s coaching presence was just as beneficial as his playing presence.
“It was very easy (listening to Robinson) due to I was just playing along side of him last season, and it’s clear he knows what he’s talking about,” Ponder said.”
Perhaps it’s because he isn’t far removed at all from where the current up-and-comers are. And he wants to be able to relate to them if it helps make Lovejoy football better even when he’s gone.
“I’ve been through things they’ve been through,” Robinson said. “With coach Carson and Johnson getting on your nerves yelling, I’ve been through that. I mean I’m 18 years old. I told them I’m still right close to ya’ll in age.”
But despite Robinson’s successful coaching debut, he’s not quite ready to pledge himself to a coaching career once he finishes actually playing the game.
“It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about,” he said. “I guess it’s something I can do. It’s fun. It’s different. You never know.”
He wants it to be known why he decided to give back to his former Lovejoy teammates in this way, though.
“I love the program,” he said. “I’ve never been the one to just watch. I wanna get out there and get involved and get after it.”
And that isn’t just about football related stuff. Robinson said he’s never minded picking up trash on the floor or helping wrap up or clean up certain things up at practices.
“I’m always trying to help,” he said.
Which is why he was spending his time out his former teammates and future Lovejoy alums. He wanted to give back before moving on to Jacksonville State. He said he’s excited to get there and learn more about the game — possibly challenge for an immediate starting spot on the Gamecocks’ defensive line.
But that excitement didn’t stop him from doing his best to live up to his social media moniker before his days at Lovejoy were officially over.
“I’m just trying to plant some seeds to help these guys keep on striding,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep being the good guy.”
From what I’ve seen over the last four years, and from my current vantage point, I’d say Robinson is succeeding at being the good guy.
Keep up the good work, young man.
Gabriel Stovall is the founding editor of thecrescentbuzz.com. If you have a story or coverage idea, you can reach him at 678-334-6808 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GabrielStovall1, and follow Southern Crescent Buzz @crescent_buzz.