Monday, November 12, 2012
Denard's Senior Day could be bittersweet
By Michael Rothstein
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Denard Robinson will come out of the Michigan Stadium tunnel one final time Saturday morning. He’ll be announced in front of the entirety of the likely 100,000-plus packed inside the stadium, who will be there to give one of the most well-known faces in Michigan history one final goodbye.
Will Devin Gardner, left, and Denard Robinson be celebrating after facing South Carolina's defense?
But that might be it. Once the game starts, Michigan fans might not see him again, so he might not receive the full salute he once dreamed, the likely overwhelming amount of cheering and gratitude a fan base would likely show one of the most electrifying players in Michigan history one last time.
“Denard’s a guy that has thrusted himself into the talk of some of the greats at the University of Michigan,” Michigan defensive end Craig Roh said. “He’s been a guy that since Day 1, has been a huge factor in everything we’ve done. Really just the day-to-day, just the energy that he brings and I’ve almost never seen him in a bad mood.”
You also won’t hear much of Robinson’s thoughts this week, either.
Michigan is not making Robinson, the face of its program the past three seasons as he confounded opponents, wowed crowds and became a marketer’s dream, available to the media this week to discuss his Michigan experience before his final home game.
He might not play, either. Hoke would only say Robinson is “day-to-day” when asking about his availability, whether he’d be used at a role other than running back and also what he thought about whether or not fans would be disappointed not to hear from Robinson before his final home contest.
This after a season where Robinson began as the player representative to speak at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon, where he reintroduced himself to the league and the country by telling his story, one he certainly hoped would end better than this.
“Any time a guy can’t finish the way that they’d like to, because of injury or whatever, you’re disappointed,” Hoke said. “They are all our sons.”
Of course, there is always the chance Robinson could play Saturday after sitting the past two weeks with an ulnar nerve injury in his right elbow. But there is also the very real possibility he won’t play again -- or at least play significant time -- inside Michigan Stadium.
He has not been available to speak with the media the past two weeks, either, and he ended up not playing the following Saturday. Instead, he has spent the final days of his college career and perhaps his final days as a quarterback on the sidelines, watching Devin Gardner lead Michigan to back-to-back victories.
Here’s where the legend of Robinson grows, where who he is as a person overshadows anything he has done on the field. Most players would really struggle with this, especially after having the type of career Robinson has.
And on some level, this is probably eating at Robinson. But he won’t let his teammates see that, at least not on Saturdays when they are on the field.
“I know that personally it would be a really tough situation, the last couple games of your senior year,” Roh said. “But that’s the great thing about Denard, he really doesn’t seem fazed by it, by any of the stuff he’s going through right now.
“You give credit to the resiliency that he has. That’s something that’s real special about him.”
Things like that are what endears you to your teammates, what makes coaches love you, fans adore you and leaves marks as much as holding the NCAA single season quarterback rushing record (1,702 yards in 2010), the Big Ten’s quarterback rushing mark (4,175 yards), the Michigan total offense record (10,425) and the top eight total offense games in school history.
It is what Robinson was like away from the field which he’ll be remembered for 20 years from now. How he always took time out to greet a fan or help a teammate, how he reached out to Fitzgerald Toussaint after he was suspended earlier this season, how he apologized to the known world after a four-interception, five-turnover game against Notre Dame or how no matter what, his dreadlocks and smile would be ever-present on the Michigan sideline.
“It would be hard not to argue he has become the face of this program,” offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said.
But it’s a face that after Saturday won’t be present in a Michigan uniform inside Michigan Stadium anymore.