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Injury could keep Robinson from Michigan Stadium finale

Erin Kirkland/Daily
Senior quarterback Denard Robinson has missed the last two starts and is still day-to-day entering Michigan’s home finale on Saturday against Iowa. Buy this photo

By Stephen J. Nesbitt, Daily Sports Editor
Published November 12, 2012

Perhaps the final chapter of Denard Robinson’s illustrious Michigan career has already come to a close.

The storybook narrative began four years ago at Michigan Stadium, in front of a sea of 109,910 in the most storied building in college football. And it began with a rookie mistake, one that birthed the legend of No. 16 as one of college football’s most electric quarterbacks.

Robinson muffed his first snap in a winged helmet. He hurriedly picked the ball off the turf, sped right and weaved through the Western Michigan defense for a 43-yard touchdown.

You might remember his last appearance at the Big House. It, too, saw the ball on the turf. But that was only because Robinson’s emphatic spike put the Wolverines in position to topple Michigan State on a chilly October night for the first time in four years.

It may have been Robinson’s last appearance as quarterback at Michigan Stadium. Robinson’s nagging ulnar-nerve injury has kept him out of consecutive games and the coaching staff remains mum as to Robinson’s status or whether he is practicing, saying only that he is “day-to-day.”

Meanwhile, the Michigan offense hasn’t slowed, guided by the steady hands of junior backup quarterback Devin Gardner. Robinson has participated lightly in warm-ups, but has traded in his helmet for a trucker cap and headset on the sideline.

“(Robinson has) been a great leader,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “I mean, he’s been a terrific leader.”

With the senior class of Michigan’s ‘Team 133’ facing its final home game on Saturday against Iowa, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Robinson may not get another snap in the stadium that made him famous.

“Everybody wants to go out the way they dreamed coming into Michigan,” said fifth-year senior offensive guard Patrick Omameh. “But however things unfold, it’s out of our hands. We just have to play the hand we’ve been dealt and keep moving forward.”

Robinson is Michigan’s all-time leader in total offensive yardage and one of just eight players in college football history to compile 40 rushing and 40 passing touchdowns in their career.

Hoke recognized that while Robinson has “made a mark” at Michigan, missing the tail end of his senior season would be devastating.

“I think anytime a guy can’t finish, because of injury or whatever, you're disappointed,” Hoke said.

Hoke has not ruled out the possibility of using Robinson at a different position if his injury should continue to keep him out of action at quarterback. He was on the field for one kick return earlier in the fall, but, for now, he’s Michigan’s biggest cheerleader from the sideline — and that’s a title he’s held for some time now.

“He’s a source of encouragement,” Omameh said. “He’s the kind of guy who whatever he can do for the team, no matter what capacity it is, he’ll try to do it.”

Robinson has indisputably been the face of Michigan football for the past three seasons since he took over for Tate Forcier at quarterback. That attention was unnatural for the soft-spoken Robinson, a native of Deerfield Beach, Fla., but he’s grown into the role.

“Denard’s a guy that has thrust himself into the talk of some of the greats at the University of Michigan,” said senior defensive end Craig Roh. “He’s been a guy since day one that’s been a huge factor in everything that we’ve done.

“Just the day-to-day energy that he brings — I’ve almost never seen him in a bad mood.”

Roh joked that while Robinson’s energy is contagious, “sometimes it’s annoying.” Even in the last two weeks since Robinson was injured against Nebraska, his mood hasn’t dampened.

“(His attitude) really hasn’t changed,” Roh said. “He really hasn’t changed at all. The guy is a team player, when you really get down to it.

“It’s great to see that someone is always able to keep coming back again and again with that great positive attitude he has.”

Michigan fans may have seen the last of Robinson at quarterback at Michigan Stadium, but they’ll have no problem finding him on the sideline.

“Personally, it would be a really tough situation, missing the last couple games of your senior year,” Roh said. “But that’s the great thing about Denard. He really does not seem fazed by any of the stuff that he’s going through right now.

“You give credit to the resiliency that he has, and I think that’s something that’s real special about him.”