Denard Robinson (center) became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season in 2010. He is pictured above in the Wolverines’ 40-34 victory over Ohio State this past season. Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Photo Services
By Gary Curreri
Denard Robinson has been making a name for himself on the football field since he was a member of the Deerfield Beach Packer Rattlers.
However, not by his birth name of Denard Xavier Robinson, but “Shoelace,” a nickname he got when he was 10 and playing for his Pee Wee team with his shoelaces untied. That practice has still continued to this day and Robinson hasn’t been tripped up from making noise on the college gridiron.
Robinson, who led the University of Michigan to an 11-2 record this year and a 2012 Allstate Sugar Bowl Championship as he threw for two TDs in a 23-20 overtime victory over Virginia Tech at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, recently announced he would forgo the NFL draft to return to school for his senior year.
“It’s been a dream to play in the NFL, and, hopefully, after next year, that becomes a reality,” Robinson said. “But, I wouldn’t pass up being here with my teammates and coaches for anything. It’s my second family. I love my teammates. I love Michigan.”
“Seeing how the seniors led our team this year, I want to be that type of leader,” Robinson added. “We made steps and had a good season, but we didn’t accomplish our No. 1 goal. We’re still hungry.”
Robinson, who threw for 2,173 yards and ran for 1,176 in his first season under new coach Brady Hoke, is one of the early favorites for the Heisman Trophy.
From his Pee Wee coach Sammie Huggins to his Deerfield Beach High School football coach Art Taylor, his coaches knew they had a special athlete in Robinson, the son of Thomas Robinson, Sr., and Dorothea Robinson.
“He listened,” Huggins said. “That was the difference … Denard’s attitude was always great. That’s why you knew he’s going to go somewhere.”
In his junior year (2007) at Deerfield Beach High School, Robinson was one yard short of taking the Bucks to the state championship game and an upset victory over the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, Miami Northwestern.
Taylor marveled at the athleticism and the leadership of Robinson.
“As soon as he stepped on that field his sophomore year playing varsity, we knew we had something special,” Taylor recalled. He also laughed at the nickname. “After 25 years coaching, if the kid can throw it 90 yards in the air and is accurate and the kid can run as fast as he does … as long as he feels comfortable not lacing his shoes, fine with me. The kid’s been doing it all his life, why mess with it?”
Robinson has made quite an impression at Michigan as well. He became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season in 2010, and just the fourth player in NCAA history to gain 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing in a season twice in his career (2010, ’11) – joining Missouri’s Brad Smith, UAB’s Joe Webb and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick.
There is even a YouTube video out, put together by The Friars, an a capella group at the University of Michigan, that is a unique way of honoring the Wolverines quarterback.
During a concert on Dec. 3, the group performed a parody of Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson, set to the Michigan star. To view it, go to: tinyurl.com/72pklav