Carl Robinson’s family was sitting down to a Christmas Day dinner when the severe weather sirens went off around 4:30 p.m. The family scrambled into the den, switching on the TV to see what was happening.
“The sirens were really loud,” said Robinson, a sophomore linebacker at The Citadel from Irvington, Ala., just outside of Mobile. “It went from a regular Christmas day to a scary one pretty quickly.”
Robinson’s family crowded into the hallway of their home for shelter, but the Christmas Day tornado that struck Mobile on Tuesday skipped their neighborhood.
“It was close, but fortunately we had no damage,” Robinson said Wednesday. “We watched the coverage on TV, and the storm was destroying things just a few miles away. Our neighborhood is fine, but right outside our neighborhood it got pretty messy.”
Mobile’s Christmas Day tornado was part of a line of storms that passed through the Lowcountry on Wednesday. It caused a few anxious moments for Citadel football coach Kevin Higgins, who has a trio of players from the Mobile area on his team and is hoping to sign a few more in February.
“I was concerned about our guys there, and the future guys we might be getting,” Higgins said. “We’ve got some great kids from that area with good families and good homes, and we were concerned about them.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Cameron Mobley, who went to St. Paul’s High School in Mobile, said Tuesday’s tornado touched down about five miles from his house.
“We were real grateful to be able to have Christmas dinner while so many people were losing their homes and things like that,” Mobley said. “The biggest problem we had is that we missed some of the Lakers-Knicks game on TV.”
In Mobile, landmark buildings such as Murphy High School and Trinity Episcopal Church suffered serious damage, but there were no deaths reported as of Wednesday.
Thanks to the efforts of assistant coach Aashon Larkins, Mobile has become a hotspot for Citadel recruiting. Linebacker James Riley, who made the Southern Conference all-freshman team last season, also is from Mobile. Former Citadel defensive end Dewitt Jones, from nearby Fairhope, Ala., was one of the first of the recent run of Mobile-area players to The Citadel.
“Coach Larkins has made tremendous inroads there,” Higgins said. “When I go in there after he’s been in, the high school coaches talk about the high esteem in which The Citadel is held there. Of course, when you get one player from an area, it makes easier to get a second or third.”
Higgins said Mobile is stocked with good athletes, with better-than-expected academics and not too much competition from fellow SoCon schools — at least, not yet.
“The academics there are much better than people realize,” he said. “People in our league have traditionally gone to Birmingham for players, but not many have gone to Mobile. We have a strong alumni group there, as well, and their presence helps. For sure, we’re hoping to get a couple of more from Mobile in February.”
Meanwhile, Citadel players hope the rest of their Christmas break is not quite as exciting.
“It’s sunny out today,” Robinson said. “Back to normal.”