May 25, 2012 – Day 16
It’s hard to describe how I felt the day I signed my commitment letter to play at the University of Georgia. It was the culmination of 17 years of my parents raising and development coupled with all the other influences that came into my life ultimately giving me a chance to play at the next level. You dream of this day all your life and it was my day. All my friends and family were there for my big day and I couldn’t be more thankful for everything they had done to get me here.
Graduation came and we all said our goodbyes eager to start this new chapter in our lives. A week and a half after graduating from high school I was in my car driving to Athens to begin the next step. June 1, 2008 I made my way into a dorm with Brandon Boykin, Deangelo Tyson and AJ Harmon. Little did I know what this year would hold as my mother left me crying the whole ride home. I was scared I’m not gonna lie. I had heard the doubters the whole ride to this point and the likelihood at this point of them stopping was slim to none.
Summer work outs began swiftly and we were thrown into the fire. I in no way shape or form was big enough to compete with these guys. You have guys like Danelle Ellerbe breaking weight room records and Darius Dewberry who had some of the best technique at Linebacker who all were battle tested upperclassmen. You have to admit you would be nervous if you were a 202 pound freshman SEC Linebacker entering a room with the likes of Danelle, Darius, Darryl Gamble, Akeem Dent, Akeem Hebron and Marcus Dowtin. I was the runt and I would have to scrap for everything I got.
Summer workouts had be extremely rough and I had just barely survived. I felt like I was in a good mental state, but I wasn’t ready for what the start of the season would bring. Many people don’t know the extent to which the coaches are not around us in the summer. We see them the day we come back and maybe you run into them as they enter the facilities during the summer. So as a freshman I never really saw anyone and hadn’t experienced a harsh word from anyone. This is very confusing for a recruit on the first day of Fall camp when you’re throw in the fire. They say “You never feel more alive than when the bullets are flying”, well on that first day I would have said “You never feel more like your gonna die than on the first day of camp.” It was awful. By the time we were done with special teams I was feeling like I was going to die. All the coaches that had laughed and joked with me were now in my face yelling at me for what I hadn’t picked up on in my first hour long meeting prior to practice. Guys like Kris Durham and Tripp Chandler all battle tested saw blood in the water and took every opportunity to get the upper hand. In a pass skeleton drill Durham is designated to block on a bubble screen and saw me. Next thing you know he had perfect positioning and completely eliminated me all the way to the ground. And as you can imagine I was instantly bombarded again with words from the coaches. This pattern of occurrences happened regularly for me as a freshman.
Camp was over and I really didn’t know how I had made it out of that two weeks. School had begun and the daily abuse at practice was now limited to once a day so I could recover from day to day. For those who don’t know being a redshirt is the worst best thing ever. Starting with the positives, you are not held to a high responsibility on the field simply because you are not the one making the plays which can cause a negative. When you sign a scholarship to play at a major university your friends back home always ask you why you’re not playing. Its hard to take those comments especially when you come from playing every single play in high school to knowing on Saturdays you wont see the field except in pregame warm ups.
As the seasons go on the negative words from others piles on you. I know its hard for people to grasp the fact that what they say actually gets to you, but when you can’t read an article without seeing someone have a personal opinion of you that they believe they can’t keep to themselves its difficult. Fast forwarding to 2011 for a moment these occurrences only escalated to a climax after the Boise State game. Everyone was so excited at the beginning of the season for what the Dawgs could do. We had a huge game in our home state and the eyes of the nation were on us to see how the season was going to begin. Honestly, I believe we didn’t know what type of team we had until the following week, but we didn’t show up and make the plays we needed to that day.
As a disheartened player you make your way back to the locker room and listen to your coach give you guidance and direction. We had to hold the seams together if we were going to survive this storm. I took of my pads and limped to the showers to get cleaned up. I gathered my belongs and made my way to the buses to make the trip back to Athens. I hadn’t looked at my phone yet and I knew I would have a text from a few close friends, but I had not thought of the things I would see when I looked at my twitter. I was unaware of how a lot of people thought about me until that point. As I gained service on my phone the tweets and facebook messages began to flood in. I’m sitting there in the back of the bus and it feels like someone has just finished beating you up and a group of people you thought were your friends saw you down and chose to finish you off. Message after message it seemed like the dome had been filled with “Christian Robinson’s Enemies.” Trying to calm myself down from comments like “Christian you suck! I don’t know why you’re even playing. We’re going to lose every game if we don’t find someone else!” I don’t know about you, but I can handle a negative comment here and there. The difference is when you get over 25 individual messages, from a minority I know, but directed hateful messages its hard to ignore what they say. It’s exceedingly difficult after I had set a career record of 13 tackles in one of the biggest games of my life. I was in such a terrible place and had no idea about what to do. I had to put my phone down and just not look at it. It hurts even more thinking about how many of the names of the people were like “Dawgs4Ever” or “KingDawg323”. These are all made up names I’m just throwing out there, but a majority were all fans. That cuts you deep when you hope your biggest supporters would be your own fans. I chose to go on a vacation from twitter for a week just to stay away from the negativity. I couldn’t handle the outside influences directed right at me so I chose to separate myself from it.
Back tracking now, imagine getting all those types of messages as a 18 year old Freshman who is trying to find his way in college, getting beat up in practice and struggling to fit in. All those things swirling around began to escalate and build up inside. The season was going on and practice began to wear me down. Day after day guys so much bigger and experienced were having there way with me. Day after day you’re beat into the ground until the final whistle blows and you get to go home.
Things took a turn for the worst the week of the Vanderbilt game. We were in a punt return and block drill with Coach Fabris. Nick Williams who was on the starting team and I, a scout team player were going at it the whole drill. He was holding me keeping me from making the play and I had had enough. I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let him do this anymore and all the pent up anger for 3 months prior was about to come out on the returner. So fuming the ball was snapped and I took off down the field. I tried to set him up by running far outside away from my lane making him think I was going to try and run away so he began to give ground knowing I’d have to come back to get in on the play. To his surprise I turned and ran right at him. I pushed him back and got him out of the way and I had a clear 5-10 yards to the returner. I just threw my body hitting the returner and tried to catch myself as I came to the ground. Feeling like I just made the play I got to my feet and my arm was on fire. A helmet had come out of no where and it looked like my arm had a golf ball like bump. Trying to brush it off I finished the next play, but the pain was getting worse. I went to Emily Miller our trainer and had her look at it. They removed me from practice and went to get X-rays. My worst fears had come true that day. I had broken my arm and my season was over. Months of fight and scraping daily had left me injured and alone. I had rode my scooter to the locker room that day and everyone had left after practice. I was so distraught I didn’t want to call any of my teammates to come pick me up. I chose to just start walking with a heavy book bag and a newly broken arm in a sling.
The distance from the fields to East Campus Village is not a short walk. I was tired and sore and broken. Its hard not to begin to think about everything that had happened to this point and how upset you are when you’re alone making that walk. I tried to stay positive, but the pain and disappointment was overwhelming. I’m gonna tell the truth, I broke down while on that walk. It was the perfect storm of emotions to push me farther mentally than I had gone to this point. All the things everyone told me up to this point seemed like they were going to really happen. Not only was I not playing, but I for sure wasn’t going to be playing. We had a few other guys hurt at the time and I was going to have the opportunity to travel to LSU, but this was no longer going to happen. I didn’t know where to turn and I was alone.
The only thing I could think to do was call my dad. He picked up the phone and I could hear in his voice that he was with at dinner with our family friend Mr. Jerry Overman. I tried to keep it all together until it was too much and I just had to tell him what had happened. “Dad…..I broke my arm…..” There was a pause on the phone and he began to speak again. He told me how sorry he was for how this had happened, but then he told me what he always did. He reminded me to stay positive. Things don’t always come easy. And for me things were and always have come through hard work. He reminded me of how he had broken his arm in college. Most don’t know but if they’ve met my dad its hard to miss the huge scare that runs from wrist to elbow. He told me to stay strong and remember that this storm would one day pass. This day was a turning point for me mentally. I didn’t see how this event would shape me for the following years.
I learned a lot that day, but the message I took away was to stop thinking about what others think about you. I was in a bad place and if I continued to listen to what everyone else thought about me I’d soon become what they believed I was. I really hope people realize the power of the words they say. On a team you want all the energy in the room to be positive to get the best product possible on the field. Our world is not just the practice field, but the thousands of other fans that are there screaming and yelling for the dawgs on Saturdays. We truly are all in this together. Things wont always be perfect and we have to be united. I hope that this season we will make every single play when we have the opportunity. The truth of the matter is that we will make mistakes. We’ll drop a few passes, we’ll miss a few tackles. But ultimately if we can stay together we can overcome anything. But above all else, together we can over come any storm that’s throw at us.