Robinson reveals he played through staph infection

Marissa McClain/Daily
Junior quarterback Denard Robinson pictured against Minnesota, wore a wrap on his right forearm protecting a staph infection he contracted earlier this season. Buy this photo

By Tim Rohan, Daily Sports Editor
Published December 10, 2011

Evidently, a “boo-boo” is another term for staph infection.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke revealed Friday — while defending Denard Robinson’s up-and-down season — that his starting quarterback had battled through a midseason staph infection in addition to an abdominal injury and issues with his elbow and hand.

When Robinson wore a wrap on his right forearm before Michigan’s game against Minnesota in October, Hoke and Robinson dismissed it as a “boo-boo.” In reality, it was a staph infection that lingered for two to three weeks.

“Turns out you didn’t have a boo-boo,” a reporter asked Robinson on Friday. “You had a staph infection?”

Robinson threw his head back and laughed.

“It was a deal,” Robinson said, repeating another popular Hoke-speak phrase.

“I was a little sick — had a staph infection. But I went out there and still played. I did it for my team.”

Then the details started to emerge. It was diagnosed sometime soon after the season opener, possibly after the Notre Dame game. Robinson and Hoke weren’t sure.

No, Robinson didn’t spread the infection to other teammates. Hoke credited his staff for their careful handling of the situation.

Yes, it was painful. And Robinson admitted he was scared. But the doctor’s reassurance that he was going to be OK put him at ease.

The doctor explained that he probably got it from the field turf, and said that he was allowed to play but only if he took adequate care of it.

But the infection was serious enough that he spent a night in the hospital. Hoke wasn’t sure Robinson if would have to miss at least one game. Robinson said “it got close,” but added that there was no doubt in his mind.

“(I’m) going to play regardless,” Robinson told the doctor the day he found out.

Against Minnesota, he generated his third-highest passer rating of the season (188.4), completing 15-of-19 passes for 169 yards. He accounted for three touchdowns in Michigan’s 58-0 win.

“It affected me a lot in the games and practice, but I kept pushing it because I knew my teammates would do the same for me,” Robinson said. “I had to be accountable.

“It was (affecting my throwing) a little bit, but I can’t make any complaints. I was playing with it.”

The wrap was exchanged for a bandage the next week against Northwestern. The bandage was there again the next week when he completed just 38 percent of his passes and struggled mightily in Michigan's first loss of the season against Michigan State.

The week after, against Purdue, his forearm was free of any wraps or bandages — as it would remain the rest of the season.

For three weeks, it was clear something was wrong. Yet not all of his teammates knew what was going on with their quarterback.

Redshirt junior safety Jordan Kovacs found out Friday, when the media asked him a question about it.

“I guess he was quiet about it,” Kovacs said.

Fifth-year senior wide receiver Junior Hemingway said Robinson made a concerted effort to keep the injury under wraps.

“He tried not to let everybody know,” Hemingway said. “He just came out and tried to be the same Denard because we know that if he’s down that could affect the rest of the team.”

Around his teammates, Robinson was his same bubbly self. But Hemingway noticed Robinson couldn’t do certain things in practice — that’s how he figured out something wasn't right.

“Plus, he’s got a big bandage on his arm,” Hemingway added.

Robinson’s silence didn’t stop the questions. When Hemingway approached Robinson in the training room one day, the quarterback wouldn’t admit anything was wrong at first.

“I know Denard’s a competitor,” Hemingway said. “So when it’s time to play, he’ll go out there and put it on the line. That’s something I knew I didn’t have to worry about.”

Added senior defensive tackle Mike Martin: “He’s the type of guy that, we see him everyday, but we can’t even tell because of the type of guy he is and the energy and enthusiasm he comes out with.

“That’s something that makes him special as a leader and as a quarterback.”

Once the staph infection healed, more injuries popped up — Robinson was knocked out of several games including both of Michigan’s losses to Michigan State and Iowa. His passing came under attack in each those games too.

The questions grew louder, but Robinson stayed silent.

“I didn’t want to explain (the injury),” said Robinson, adding that it was his decision to keep it quiet. “I mean, I’m out there playing so there’s no excuses. … I feel if you go out there and play, there shouldn’t be any excuse why you lost or why you’re this way or why you’re that way.

“(There) was a lot going on this season. But we had to fight through it. I just kept fighting through it.”

All season Robinson said he felt much better than he had a year ago, when he didn’t know how to best treat himself. Still, the injuries piled up again — as it became clear Friday.

He says he’s 100 percent healthy now, and his last three games — all wins against Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State — were arguably his best all season.

Hoke also made clear there were no excuses for Robinson’s midseason swoon. He brought up the staph infection merely to explain why he thought his quarterback’s final three games were the rule and not the exception.

“He’s a tough guy,” Hoke said. “I just think he was so much more healthier and confident, probably at the same time.

“Everybody’s beat up. Still, there are no excuses for performance.”