Sunday evening proved a very tragic day in Marengo County as two of its young people were killed in a car accident.
I did not know C.J. Boykin, so it would be impossible for me to speak knowledgeably of him. But I can say that the outpouring of grief from his teachers, classmates and others who knew him clearly indicates that he was a well-liked young man even at the tender age of 12.
Anthony Robinson Jr., on the other hand, I knew well. A former member of the Linden High Patriot football team, Robinson was a three-time selection on the Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State Team. He was a four-year starter at quarterback and defensive back (two at corner and two at safety) for Linden.
He was the 2012 West Alabama Watchman Player of the Year for its inaugural All-County Football Team. And he was a 2013 signee with the University of West Alabama where he played cornerback for the Tigers.
He was also the point guard of the Linden High basketball team where he played varsity all four years of his high school career.
That is Robinson. Those are the accolades that point so glowingly toward what kind of athlete Anthony Robinson Jr. was.
But those things do little to tell you of who Anthony Robinson Jr. really was. Anthony Robinson Jr. was electric. It was not his athletic ability or the way he shook defenders. It was his smile and the way he greeted other people.
For the five years that I interacted with Anthony Robinson while covering his athletic teams, I found him to be the rare individual that owned every room he entered. He was not so much loud or boisterous, but he had the kind of presence to which other young people gravitate.
By his junior year, Anthony was the unquestioned leader of the Linden football team. He set the tempo. He demanded more from his teammates. And he always led by example.
Linden head coach Andro Williams always knew, especially in the latter years of Robinson’s career, that his team would “go as Anthony Robinson goes.” But that personality trait transcended athletics. Anthony Robinson was never a follower. He was always the kind of person that would dictate the tempo of his life.
He scarcely met a stranger and had a smile that he was incapable of withholding from the world. In my experience, most teenage boys are reluctant to smile for pictures, staring into the camera with an expression of apathy as they try to look “hard” or “tough” or whatever other adjective that has made its way into the adolescent vernacular to describe such occasions.
But Anthony Robinson could not do that. He never looked “hard” or “tough.” He looked like he loved life. And he almost always appeared happy to be wherever he was at that particular moment.
An athlete, a son, a cousin, a competitor, a winner, a student, a role model, a friend, Anthony Robinson played all of his roles to the best of his ability and did it all with a magnetic smile that let the world in.
And the events of Sunday are so surprising, so dumbfounding, so frustratingly heart-wrenching because the world only has so many Anthony Robinsons and now we have one less.