The final post of my Black History Month series celebrates the legendary career of Michigan Man Denard Robinson. Hands down, Denard Xavier Robinson was one of the most exciting players to ever wear the winged helmet – period! Michigan fans were not happy with the coaching tenure of Rich Rodriguez, but he did recruit “Mr. Robinson” to play football in Ann Arbor. So, we must give Rich Rod some credit for seeing the great potential of “Shoelace.” Most schools recruited Denard to play defensive back, but Rodriguez recruited him to play quarterback and it turned out to be a very good thing for the Michigan Football program.
(Note – Team Co-Captain Denard “Shoelace” Robinson is shown above with the 2012 Michigan Wolverine Football team. Denard is seated in the first row – eighth man from the left of the picture. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Denard brought his big smile, a great nickname (Shoelace) and a ton of talent from Deerfield Beach, Florida to Ann Arbor. Like many Floridians before him, the mystique of playing for Michigan in the Big House was a big attraction. Yes, it gets cold in Ann Arbor in November and usually stays that way until May. However, there are some “up” sides to living in the upper Midwest. The good news is that Denard Shoelace Robinson saw the benefits of playing in The Big House and living in Ann Arbor.
Denard “Shoelace” Robinson started bringing Wolverine fans to their feet on his first play when he turned a fumbled snap into a touchdown against Western Michigan in 2009. He saw a lot of playing time that first season as the back up for Tate Forcier.
By the time the 2010 season rolled around, Denard was Michigan’s starting quarterback. Mr. Robinson had a ton of “Heisman” moments that season. Unfortunately, the defense had trouble defending their opponents. So, every game demanded that Shoelace, and the offense, put up some big numbers. The offense became very predictable since Denard was such an important part. So, Denard “Shoelace” Robinson became a “marked man” on every play. Despite it all, he was able to put up some stunning numbers and led his team to the only winning season (7-6) in the Rich Rodriguez Era. Of course, it wasn’t enough and Rodriguez was fired after a blowout loss to Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator Bowl. Shoelace earned a ton of awards in 2010 for his stellar play: All-Big Ten, All-American, UM team MVP and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Denard Robinson’s last two seasons were the first two years of the Brady Hoke Era. Shoelace continued to play his heart out for Michigan, but he didn’t quite fit into Brady’s Pro-Style Offense. He did lead his team to an outstanding record of 11 wins and 2 losses in 2011. Of course, he helped make Brady Hoke look like a turnaround genius in his first year. After getting routed by Alabama in the season opener in 2012, Denard had mostly good games winning five of the next six. The beginning of the end for Denard came in the first half of the Nebraska game when he was injured on a short run. Unfortunately, he was never the same and could not return to his “jaw dropping” level of play that marked the first 19 games of his career.
As always, Michigan Quarterbacks are judged by two things. 1) How many Big Ten Titles did you win? 2) How many games did you help Michigan win on your watch? So, here is a quick look at Denard “Shoelace” Robinson’s “important numbers.”
|Year||Starts||Overall||Conference||Big Ten Finish||Remarks|
|2010||13||7-6||3-5||7th (Tie)||All-Big Ten, All-American, Team/BIG MVP|
|2011||13||11-2||6-2||2nd (Legends)||Team MVP|
|2012||8||5-3||3-1||2nd (Legends)||Team Co-Captain w/Jordan Kovacs|
Denard’s “team” numbers were not as good as he would have liked. I am sure that he would have traded his All-American Award or his MVP trophy for a Big Ten Championship or two. That is for sure! However, his individual numbers were stunning and he still holds many, many Michigan Football records. The good news is that he did everything his coaches asked him to do and played as hard as he could when he was on the field.
In addition to being one of the most exciting players ever to put on a Michigan Football uniform, Denard Robinson is a record holder who is also connected to a number of Wolverine Football “firsts.” Here are some of Denard’s best accomplishments at Michigan:
There are a ton of Denard Robinson highlight videos on You Tube because he was a “human highlight reel” until his injury in 2012. You could spend hours watching Denard do his amazing Michigan Football “thing.” I only included one link to what is my “favorite” Denard Robinson moment. This is the eighty-seven-yard run – the longest run in the history of Notre Dame Stadium – that Denard made to seal the deal on September 11, 2010. The coolest thing about this run is that the yardage on this run was the same as the number that Michigan Legend Ron Kramer wore. It was also the day that Ron Kramer died. This play links two great Michigan players forever! It is also the longest run ever recorded against Notre Dame!
I often shudder to think how bad Michigan Football would have been without Denard “Shoelace” Robinson. He did everything he could to win for Michigan. I will always appreciate his tremendous contributions to Michigan Football. He is absolutely one of Michigan’s best ever. Thanks for all the great memories and the wonderful way you played the game Denard! Keep Smiling and Go Blue!
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