- Stephen J. Nesbitt/Daily
By Michael Florek, Daily Sports Editor
Published July 29, 2011
CHICAGO — On Brady Hoke’s first day as the Michigan football team’s coach, he lost the spotlight.
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It wasn’t with the media, who packed the Junge Family Champions Center to cover his hour-long press conference, but in a separate meeting with his team.
With the cameras off, the Wolverines assembled for Hoke’s first address to the team. That’s when junior quarterback Denard Robinson got up. Robinson usually leads by example alone — he couldn't do that here.
He had a message: I’m not going anywhere.
“The media was all saying, yeah he might leave, but I never told anybody I was leaving,” Robinson said at Big Ten Media Days. “So it was just like I had to tell everybody on the team like, 'Man, don’t think I’m leaving, don’t read what everybody says.' ”
The statement had a profound impact on those in the room, one that was remembered on the final day of Big Ten Media Days on Friday.
“It was something new, because I’ve never seen Denard that angry or that excited,” senior defensive tackle Mike Martin said. “But it was a huge reassurance. But then he transitioned into the team, like, ‘What are we going to do as a team? Where are we now? We can either not be all in and do what we need to do, or we can work hard together and make sure we’re successful.’ ”
Hoke was also in the room. He remembered Robinson being upset at the media speculating his departure. He remembered fifth-year senior center David Molk getting up in that same meeting and telling everybody the team was going to stick together.
He remembered his first conversation with Robinson, which ended with the quarterback saying, "Coach, I’m not going anywhere."
And it doesn’t appear Robinson is going anywhere for a long time. When asked about making the jump to the NFL, he said he would address the issue when it approached, but also reiterated that he wanted to be the first person in his family to have a college degree.
He also wants to win games, and to do that he needs his teammates.
Robinson didn’t want the young guys to relive what he went through, coming to an undermanned team after a summer of mass exodus. Speaking now, but leading by example at the same time.
“When (Robinson) came to us, he was addressing that we as a group — including him — need to make sure that none of the younger guys have doubtful thoughts or might want to stray away,” Martin said. “We didn't want there to be a repeat of last time there was a transfer of a coach.”
Safety Ray Vinopal and cornerback Cullen Christian have transferred.
But the offseason has been nothing compared to former coach Rich Rodriguez’s first, when both his starting quarterback and a starting offensive lineman left for other schools.
Michigan’s scholarship numbers are still low. Hoke said he’s at about 80 or 81 scholarship players instead of the maximum 85. The lack of depth may be a concern with Hoke’s physical style. He talked about having practices that you only need to hear, creating a “traditional” Michigan team.
That first edition of the traditional team will have an unconventional quarterback, but judging from that meeting, a traditional leader.