Blue all about his family

ATHENS – When Greg Blue goes home to the Atlanta neighborhood where he grew up, it looks like the Pied Piper is walking down the sidewalk.

"All the kids, they really love him and get attached to him," said Jay Warning, Blue's uncle. "They'll be all over him when they see him."

If he could, Blue would lead every one of them off the streets where he grew up, where dealers sold drugs just outside his front door, and where his father found trouble time and time again before finally being sentenced to a 30-year prison term without parole.

Greg Blue Jr. has done what his father and several uncles and cousins before him couldn't do, and it has nothing to do with being No. 8 Georgia's leading tackler and an All-American safety this season.

Greg Blue Sr. went to jail for the first time in 1980. He would be in and out four more times for charges ranging from armed robbery to drug possession before being convicted in 2003 of drug trafficking. His release date is in 2032.

"I would show him what his dad was out there doing and what his uncles and cousins were out there doing," said Teresa Webb, Blue's mother. "I would say, ‘If you make bad decisions, this is what's going to happen to you, you're going to prison or you're going to get killed.'"

Blue and his father have always been close despite Blue Sr.'s legal troubles. He plans to visit his father today in Telfair State Prison in Helena. The men talk regularly, said Warning, who facilitates the conversations by patching Blue Sr.'s calls from prison through to his son's cellphone via three-way calling.

"He's proud of his child," Warning said. "He just hates he's in the situation he's in and can't be here with him. It does make things easier on him to know (Greg) is doing well and things are happening for him."

Blue's father can watch his son play on television but hasn't been able to see him play in person since the fall of 2002.

"It was the Ole Miss game, and I didn't see him there," Blue said. "Usually, he would come to every game, but I remembered not seeing him at that one. I didn't call him or go look for him, but Monday they called me and said he had gotten arrested, and that's why he wasn't at the game."

His biggest concern after his father's arrest was hisfour younger brothers and two younger sisters.

"I didn't take it hard because he sacrificed his life for us," Blue said. "I just wanted to make sure my younger brothers and sisters were OK. I was able to take care of myself, and they weren't able to take care of themselves, and that's what got to me. The big thing was making sure they're all right."

They're more than all right, thanks to the way Blue has handled his life, his mother said.

"He didn't want them to follow in (the wrong) footsteps," said Webb, who works at Grady Hospital. "He's going to be the one to break the cycle in our family. Now all (his siblings) talk about is Greg, and how they're going to do what he does."

Blue wants to coach high school football after whatever career he can manage in the NFL, and he's a regular volunteer with children in Athens.

"Greg has always loved kids," Webb said. "When he was a little boy, he would give away his toys. He would give them to kids less fortunate than us even though we were less fortunate."

Webb sometimes has trouble believing its her son wearing No. 17 in the red and black. Usually it's after Blue has knocked an opponent out of a game with one of his vicious hits.

"Greg is a sweetheart, but he's a different person on that field," she said. "It shocks me to see my baby hit like that."

Blue, a senior, leads the Bulldogs with 88 tackles this season. It's a fine finish to a college career that almost never began. He was the last partial qualifier accepted at Georgia before the school stopped accepting players who weren't completely qualified. As a partial qualifier, Blue was forced by the NCAA to sit out his first season and then had to graduate within four years to earn his final year of eligibility.

He graduated this summer and has said several times this year that earning his degree is his proudest achievement at the school.

"A lot of people doubted his ability to handle the academic rigors at our school," Coach Mark Richt said. "He's proven he can do that and be a fantastic All-American football player and be a fantastic citizen. He's got a heart for young people. He wants to give back. He's just a great credit to this program and our university."

Blue's one Christmas wish would be for his father to be released from prison, but he knows that's not going to happen.

"So just being with my family," he said. "I don't want anything really other than just to be around my family. I'm good, really."

Greg Blue
6-foot-2, 214 pounds
Senior safety
All America first teams: Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation, American Football Coaches Association
Season statistics: 88 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions
Career statistics: 252 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions
FYI: The only thing in the world Blue will confess to be scared of is cats, not lions or tigers, but housecats. They're all out to get him, he says. "If my lady had a cat, I wouldn't be going over there," he said.

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