July 28, 2012 - 5:45pm
BY STEPHEN J. NESBITT
CHICAGO — Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson was the keynote speaker at the Big Ten’s kickoff luncheon on Friday.
Below is a full transcript of his eight-minute speech.
“I didn’t realize how tough it would be filling Kirk Cousins’ shoes until I stepped into the ones he left up here last year. But I’m used to performing with my shoes a little loose, so we’ll see how this goes. I should probably start by saying good luck to Andrew Maxwell, because he’ll have even bigger shoes to fill on Saturdays.
“It’s an honor to speak before you today. I’m Denard Robinson, I play quarterback for the University of Michigan, and some people call me ‘Shoelace.’ These are the things you might already know.
“Here’s what you may not know: I grew up in Deerfield Beach, Fla. with six brothers, one sister.
“What you may not know is: I lost my brother (Timothy) when I was 10 years old and that I pray to him before every game to give me strength. No matter how hot it is outside, I always seem to get a cool breeze. I like to think that it comes from him.
“What you may not know is: I was so self-conscious of the area that I grew up in that I used to hold recruiting visits in my grandparents’ house.
“What you may not know is: I wasn’t even the best athlete in my neighborhood, but I happened to be one of the ones that made it out. Why? Choices.
“The reason I tell you this is that where I came from it was hard. It wasn’t easy where I came from. What made it possible was my two parents who had nothing and gave everything. And today I want to say ‘Thank you, I love you.’
“What made it possible was the coaches, the teachers, and everyone else who gave of themselves so that I, like many, can have choices.
“My favorite artist, Lil Wayne, had this saying: ‘I don’t set out to be different; I set out to be me and people think it’s different.’
“Where I came from, it was easy to do the wrong thing: quit school, do drugs, live the street life. It’s tougher to do the right things.
“You may not know that my freshman year of high school I was ineligible to play spring football because of my grades. It would have been easy to give up and fall into what all the other kids were doing, but it was my choice to be different, to be uncommon.
“Like after my sophomore year when coach Rod was let go. He was the coach that brought me into the University of Michigan and that was the best decision of my life.
“Everyone thought I would probably leave, go closer to home, go to a school with a familiar offense. But those who question me didn’t know me — because I bleed blue. Second, because it’s an honor to play for the University of Michigan, the winningest program in college football. Third, because those teammates were my brothers and I wouldn’t trade them for anything; family stays together through thick and thin.
“And when coach Hoke came in, he didn’t guarantee me anything. All I wanted was the opportunity to continue playing quarterback. And for that, I want to say ‘Thank you, coach.’
“Another reason I didn’t believe is because it’s an honor to play in the Big Ten. When you guys are playing at bowl games, I root for you. Montee Ball is one of the guys I root for all the time. I call him ‘The Wrecking Ball.’ When he was playing in the Rose Bowl, I was calling him ‘The Wrecking Ball’ the whole time. And I enjoy watching him play.
“I think it’s important because we don’t only represent ourselves, we represent our schools and each other as Big Ten players. We represent the Big Ten on the field, off the field.
“As a Big Ten student-athlete, we have a platform and we have choices to make. We have a choice to make a difference, to use our platform to make a difference. Six million people attended our Big Ten games last year, and the Big Ten Network is in 80 million homes. And that’s just a small number of the eyes that are on us each day.
“A favorite saying of mine is: Character is who you are when no one else is watching. It’s easy when we know the camera is on us to do the right thing, but maybe tougher at other times.
“This year, for good or bad, I’ve become aware of how big our platform can be. I met the President of the United States, I met LeBron James — and they both knew who I was.
“I had the honor to meet several of the Navy SEALs this summer, and they talked about how it was an honor to watch us play.
“On the other hand, I’ve been followed around by the media, even when I’m just a regular student at basketball games. My every move is watched. Even when my Twitter account was hacked, front-page news after being hacked, yet I tried to find the positive in it. We all should.
“My motto is: Try to make somebody’s day everyday.
“With this platform, we have that opportunity, an opportunity to make a difference. The tough choices don’t stop. Trust me, I’m not perfect, just ask coach Hoke, who I drive crazy way too often, right coach?
“At Michigan, we talk about trust, respect, accountability and commitment. We’re not only accountable to our teammates, but our families, our coaches, our schools and we’re accountable to each other as Big Ten players to make the right choices and represent this great conference. We're accountable to each other and to everyone watching us, particularly kids. No matter what Charles Barkley says, we're all role models.
“I was told I couldn't play college football. I was told I couldn't play college quarterback. I was told I was too short. I was told I couldn't make it at a school like Michigan. I’ve been told many things, but my choice to not take the easy way out. It took me to the University of Michigan and to set college football records. Yet for all the things I accomplish on the football field, none of them would compare to me walking across the stage at graduation from the best university in the world and be the first in my family to graduate from a four-year college.
“I mentioned earlier that I lost my brother. I promised him that one day I would provide for our family so that they won’t have to struggle anymore. I have a feeling that I'm on my way; I'm not there yet though. Like I said, I was so self-conscious of where I came from, but today I realized I'm blessed and I embrace it. Where I came from helped me become who I am today. And it shows it doesn't matter where you come from, anything is possible. That is the message I want to carry on.
“It's about choices. It's OK to work hard. It's OK to be uncommon. It's up to us to use our stories, our platform, to help others. During my three years, it’s has been an honor to represent the University of Michigan. It's been an honor to represent the Big Ten. It's been an honor to share the field with the guys on the stage today. It's a big life, big stage, Big Ten.
“This has all been a dream for me and although it is almost over I still have a few more days to make somebody else's day; I challenge you to do the same. I wish you all the best this season and I want to say thank you for giving me the honor to speak to you today. Thank you and Go Blue!”