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Posted on Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Michigan QB Denard Robinson receives outpouring of support for media day speech, but ready to work

By Kyle Meinke


Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has always allowed his play to do the talking. Now, he's trying to step up off the field as well.

Melanie Maxwell |

Denard Robinson, the Michigan football team's famously shy star quarterback, spent three years hiding behind his flashy smile and fleet feet.

Now a senior and the face of a Wolverines team craving his leadership, Robinson is working to open up -- and speak up.

His first big breakthrough occurred recently at the Big Ten's media days in Chicago, where he delivered a stirring 8-minute speech while speaking for the league's players. He opened up about his brother dying when he was 10, and later holding recruiting visits at his grandparents' house because he was so self-conscious of the drug-infested streets that surrounded his home.

"As soon as it was over, I texted him and told him that I thought it was incredible," senior receiver Roy Roundtree said this week. "I had never seen Denard open up like that."

Robinson said he has received an outpouring of support since the speech, including from his family back in Deerfield Beach, Fla. It brought his mother to tears.

"I got a lot of text messages," he said. "Everyone just said, 'Thank you for opening up and introducing your life to us.' My family, they just said, 'Man, that kind of hit home.'

"Everybody gave me good feedback. I feel like I could have did better, but, you know, I'm trying to do better at football."

Robinson has been a star ever since he made his first start as a sophomore in 2010, when he announced himself to the world by completing 19-of-22 passes and rushing for a school quarterback-record 197 yards in the opener against Connecticut.

He followed up that performance by rushing for 258 yards against Notre Dame, another record, and he immediately was inserted into Heisman Trophy considerations.

He didn't have time to acclimate to the limelight -- but it found him, and he's had a hard time embracing it.

Robinson, though, evolved this past offseason knowing his team would have a leadership void after the departure of captains Mike Martin, David Molk and Kevin Koger. He responded by asserting himself not only as a leader of the team, but an outspoken one at that.

Roundtree said Robinson even chewed out a few players for not working hard enough in the offseason.

"It is all about growing up and taking on a leadership role," Robinson said. "That's something I have to be ready to do this season."

On the field, Robinson has evolved as well. One of the country's most dynamic rushers the past three years, the senior spent the offseason working to master the passing game.

He completed only 55 percent of his passes last year and tossed a Big Ten-worst 15 interceptions. He's pored over film this offseason to diagnose what went wrong mentally, and worked diligently to correct footwork problems.

After his first day of camp Monday, Robinson said he missed a couple throws due to being "too excited," but that overall he was relaxed and executed. There were fewer timing errors, and his footwork and follow-through were improved.

He also tried out his new personality -- and teammates noticed.

"Denard's really picked it up," Roundtree said. "He's a lot more vocal than he has been in the past. You can actually hear him now."

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:52 a.m.

Robinson and the offense have had a full year to work with Borges. I think, if the line holds up, that this offense is going to be lights out, and Robinson will be a far better passer than he's ever been...he'll put all the doubters to rest.


Thu, Aug 9, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

Denard is all heart, I think he is an incredible person. He has worked very hard, and is going to have a breakout year. He may end up in New York receiving some hardware! If he gets to New York, he will win the Heisman.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Kyle & Cliff, most BT teams start well then fall off some once BT play starts, that's typical because of the weaker scheduled teams. Also, by this time teams are learning the strengths and weaknesses of their BT opponents and preparing game plans accordingly. This is where coaching play a huge part. Kyle, last year after the MSU game you wrote, " The OL obviously must be better, and the coaching as well. There were few schematic adjustments made to help Robinson deal with the blitz packages, nor snap count adjustments to compensate for MSU jumping the calls. " That point was spot on, it doesn't matter how much DR improve his mechanics, if Borges do not figure out how to make teams pay when they send the corner blitz ( weak side mainly ) and the AA gap blitz, the offense is not going to fare well. MSU showed the blueprint on how to stop M's ( AB ) offense, not just DR. Fitz didn't have a good game, and when Gardner replaced DR, he as well was hindered by the pressure. DR in 2010 had 377 total off. ( 84 rush. ) against State, the BT average was < 329 total off./gm, the 3 pics is what hurt him, not the game plan. The TEAM fell off against MSU last year in basically every statistical category but INT's from 2010.

Kyle Meinke

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

Tally, couldn't agree with you more. The overall numbers should go down a little bit, which is the point I was trying to make in regards to last year. His production, overall, didn't dip much out of the ordinary. He was stellar against Nebraska and Ohio State. ... But the mistakes spiked, and they were especially bad two years ago. Robinson has said all offseason his biggest focus has been on limiting turnovers. Biggest thing for him" Learn to stop throwing off his back foot, and learn to digest defenses better/quicker.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 5:54 p.m.

Sorry, I meant to say, the offense had 377 tot. yd off., not DR, he had 299.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

It is the vocal leaders in the locker room, the practices, the team meetings and the huddle that are the pillars of the team. They get things done. The " they" is not only Denard but Will Camplbell as well. Keep it up, guys and Go Blue!!

Kyle Meinke

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

MRunner, players say the most vocal leaders on this team are Denard, Roy Roundtree, Will Campbell and Jordan Kovacs. I think Taylor Lewan can be thrown into that mix as well, although knowing Hoke, I'd be surprised if a junior is named a captain.

Ted Bundy

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

Gosh that 250+ yard rushing game against ND was amazing. 2010 was brutal, but the highlight reel was electric!


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

It will be interesting to see if he can maintain the success he has early in the season and carry it over once the Big Ten season starts. As has been the case the past few years, I think this team's success lies solely on the shoulders of Denard. As Denard goes, so goes the team.


Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

Let's see if DR maintain his early season success once the BT season start? - 2010 BT single season rushing record by a QB. - Led the BT in rushing ( 131ypg ) 2010. - Led the BT in total offense 2010 & 2011 - And named BT player of the year 2010. DR is key, but it takes the team for the team to go. DR plays offense only.

Kyle Meinke

Wed, Aug 8, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

Cliff, there's no doubt Denard's numbers plummeted during league play in 2010. He averaged 172 yards rushing and threw just 1 pick in the nonconference season, then rushed for 119.4 yards per game and threw 9 picks in B1G play. He's part of why that team nose-dived (although the defense was the biggest issue). Last year, though, he did a much nicer job of maintaining his play. In fact, two of his best games were against Nebraska and Ohio State, the final two games of the regular season. (Against just OSU, the final game of the reg season, he was 14-of-17 passing with 3 TDs, and ran for 170 yards and 2 more TDs. The 5 TDs are a Michigan record in OSU games.) I think the bigger issue for Denard is learning to play well against aggressive, attacking defenses. The teams that had the most success against him last year -- Michigan State, Iowa, Virginia Tech -- were the ones who just came after him and made him make choices. He made bad ones. You're definitely right, though. There are a lot of reasons for success and failure, none bigger than Denard. ... After all, two of Michigan's losses came in his three of his worst games last year, and it nearly lost the third in the Sugar Bowl. U-M needs him playing well.