The University of Georgia has produced a total of 181 NFL players. The University of Georgia at Tbilisi … well, not exactly. In a country slightly larger than the state of West Virginia, the Republic of Georgia certainly is not the first stop college football scouts are making on their recruiting trips. Needless to say, American football is not exactly flourishing in the country of Georgia.
But that did not stop Leo Chubinishvili ’14 from trying out this novel sport back as a sophomore in high school and eventually being recruited by a number of different colleges, out of which he chose F&M.
In 2007, Chubinishvili left his hometown of Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia, and moved to the Hun School of Princeton, New Jersey as a boarding student. In Georgia, Chubinishvili enjoyed playing rugby, and the Hun School requires every student to play a minimum of two sports. Since rugby and football are similar sports, Chubinishvili figured it would be an exciting experiment.
“People don’t really know about football in Georgia,” Chubinishvili said. “Obviously, you would have heard of it because of the movies, but I didn’t know anything when I came here. I didn’t even know there were four downs.”
Luckily for Chubinishvili, his size, strength, and athleticism were enough to earn him a spot on the junior varsity squad. But when it came time for practice, he had no idea what to do, or where to go, and his English hadn’t developed enough for him to be able to understand the rules his coaches were attempting to explain to him. So they simplified things a bit and put Chubinishvili on the defensive line, where he was told to “get the guy with the ball.”
As time went on and his English improved, Chubinishvili quickly found his way into a starting position on the varsity football team, where he was named a Trenton Times All-Prep First Team defenseman.
Chubinisvhili had little trouble adjusting to the cultural changes, and he attributes his smooth transition to football to the friendships he was able to build with his teammates. Here at F&M he has done the same, and knows he will cherish his friends from the football team for life.
As a senior in high school, the Georgian had not taken the SAT, but was being recruited to a number of schools, many of which required standardized test scores. Chubinishvili narrowed his search down F&M, Gettysburg, and Ursinus. After visiting andapplying early decision with no time to spare, Chubinishvili was accepted to F&M, and says, “I’m glad I came here, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
F&M had everything Chubinishvili was looking for in a school. A great education, a football team, and of course—the Amish, whose lifestyle continues to enthrall and puzzle him. Academics and football have provided the perfect balance for the junior, and he has cherished his moments with the team.
During his first training camp, Chubinishvili recalls a moment where he sang the F&M football alma mater in order to prevent him and his fellow teammates from having to run sprints.
“Several of the guys went and failed to recite it, and then I was called,” Chubinishvili said. “I knew it, but you’re tired from the sprints and out of breath. I recited it (with several mistakes) and I remember everyone was excited and chanting, ‘Let’s go, Leo!’”
The junior is grateful for his educational opportunities, and is thankful for the ESL program at the Hun School, which made his move to F&M nearly care free.
Chubinishvili has established himself well at F&M, and is a business, organizations, and society major and a French minor.
Though Chubinishvili is from Georgia, his language skills extend beyond the exiguous republic.
Until 1991, Georgia was under the Soviet hegemony, and nearly everyone spoke Russian so Chubinishvili picked up a great deal of the language. He also remembers hearing stories of strife and chaos from his mother during the civil war in Georgia following the tiny country gaining its independence.
“People were very poor, and it was 1992 or 1993 where you had to stand in long lines just to get a loaf of bread,” Chubinishvili said.
By the time he was eight years old, conditions had improved significantly in Georgia, and Chubinishvili does not remember the hardships of the civil war he endured at such a young age. But he does remember some Russian, one of four languages that make him multilingual. He also knows Georgian, English, and French.
Before emigrating to the U.S., Chubinishvili attended a French school, and continues to pursue the language here at F&M. Every summer he returns to his native Georgia to visit family and friends, though many of his friends have chosen to study in other countries, such as France.
Chubinisvhili’s parents wanted him to study in the U.S., and Chubinishvili knows the value of getting a degree from an American institution.
“You definitely get a great education here, and I’m sure I will succeed because of F&M and that’s the main reason I came here: to get an education,” Chubinishvili said.
The defensive lineman is motivated by his own personal goals he desires to achieve.
“In Georgia, people study all their lives and they try to be someone, and they aren’t very successful,” Chubinishvili said. “I feel like in the U.S., as long as you work hard and follow your goals, you will be successful at the end. The lesson that I learned in the U.S. is that hard work will always pay off; if you try to achieve, you will and you’ll get rewarded.”
After graduating from F&M, Chubinisvhili would like to remain in the U.S. and find a job here.
Questions? Email Jonathan at email@example.com.