COLUMN: Thank You Denard

By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor

How can you sum up four years of greatness? With two words, and only one name; Denard Robinson. The senior is going to go out as one of the best players to put on a Michigan football uniform.

In his four years he’s broken numerous records, starting his career with a fumble for a touchdown, and finishing it with a loss of three yards on a rushing play. Not exactly the way you would think a great player would go out in his college career. Heck, he didn’t even win his final game in a Michigan uniform.

That doesn’t matter though. Denard was one of the most elusive, awe-inspiring, and epic college football players. He had his ups and downs, just like any player does. His best season didn’t come in 2012, it came when he was a sophomore, but more records were broken the more games he played.

Denard Robinson (Chris Zadorozny)

Denard Robinson (Chris Zadorozny)

His career started as a backup to Tate Forcier, who has since transferred, dropped out because of academics, signed with a CFL team and was cut by them over the summer. Even though he didn’t start as quarterback in the Michigan program, it became evident that he was very skilled, and very fast.

Under former head coach Rich Rodriguez, he didn’t start, but played in all 12 games. Forcier ended up not being the player that Rodriguez wanted in his offense. In his first full year as starting quarterback in 2010, he became a dominant quarterback that Michigan was hoping for.

Unfortunately, he never had the arm strength to become a really good quarterback, more along the lines of a wildcat type quarterback with his legs being able to carry the offense. But that’s not how the offense was made. Denard helped carry the the team to the 2011 Gator Bowl against Mississippi State. The Wolverines fell to the Bulldogs in the Wolverines worst loss ever in a bowl game.

That did it for Rodriguez. Weeks later, Michigan brought in Brady Hoke, former defensive coordinator under Lloyd Carr to be the head coach. Rumors were abound that Denard would leave the program, but he stayed committed to the program that gave him a shot at playing quarterback.

Denard was able to flourish under Hoke’s system, not so much as a great quarterback, but as a leader, as a captain, as the player we all love to watch and admire. In 2011, he threw the most touchdowns one season in his career, along with the most rushing touchdowns. He started the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history, and when he found Roy Roundtree with just two seconds left in the game to score the game-winning touchdown, Michigan fans erupted with joy.

He took the Wolverines to a BCS Sugar Bowl berth that year, and helped defeat the Virginia Tech Hokies in overtime. This past season, well, it wasn’t great. He started the year, but had probably the worst game of his career in South Bend, throwing four first half interceptions along with losing a fumble. He was able to regain his footing during the season, but sprained his elbow in Lincoln against Nebraska and was never the same since.

Backup quarterback Devin Gardner started the rest of the season, and Denard was relegated to do whatever Coach Hoke wanted. Running back, wide receiver, quarterback, he was a go-to player for Hoke.

Among the records broken by Robinson include: most rushing yards by a quarterback in the NCAA (4,495 yards), most rushing yards by a quarterback in the Big Ten (single-game, single-season, and career), single-season total offense in the Big Ten and in Michigan history, and passing yards in a single half in Michigan history, among many others.

Denard was never the same player each week, but he did what was needed of his team. He was a true leader, a true captain, a true Michigan man. Good luck Denard in all of your future endeavors. Michigan will never forget you, as we hope you never forget us.

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