So here’s the deal: you can only have one of them.

Three years ago the decision was easy. Today, it’s even easier.

Behind door No. 1: A 6-foot-6, 230-pound behemoth of a quarterback, who’s also an athlete, who’s also a star basketball player, who’s also supposed to be a Heisman Trophy winner and dominate at his position in college.

Behind door No. 2: An athlete who everyone thinks is moonlighting as a quarterback. He’s a track star, barely six-foot tall but he can run like the wind. Few teams say he can try and be a quarterback. Fewer teams have immediate needs at the position and can offer him an opportunity right away.

Terrelle Pryor vs. Denard Robinson.

Michigan fans, count your blessings.

Because as of June 7, 2011, your starting quarterback in the fall (and maybe the fall after that) is none other than one of the most dangerous weapons in all of college football. A player that finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy race. A player who, during the non-conference schedule last season, played so well there weren’t enough superlatives to describe his game.

Yet, Denard Robinson came in with nothing. All he had was promise that he could compete for the starting quarterback job at Michigan. Tate Forcier was more polished and had enrolled early. He had the upperhand, and Robinson took his lumps in relief.

Now, Robinson has the respect and love of his coaches. His teammates would probably ride on horseback into battle if he led them. And the fans think he can do no wrong, despite how his play dropped off in the second half of the 2010 season. Why is all of that, you ask?

Because Robinson flat-out earned it.

He mastered Rich Rodriguez’s offense and poured sweat and hard work into the summer of 2010 so he could take advantage of the one thing that he was a given: a chance. Tate Forcier coasted off of his freshman year and sat back as Robinson blew by him. Then everything during the games came easy to Robinson when he wasn’t injured.

The task ahead of Robinson seems laughable considering how far he has already come. The natural battery of questions when Brady Hoke was hired was:

What about Denard? How will he adjust? Will he be just as good?

Hoke and Al Borges aren’t dumb guys. They know what kind of talent they have in Denard Robinson. The most important thing to remember is, Robinson’s not going to settle. He’s not going to get complacent and wallow in his newfound fame. With a kid like Robinson at quarterback, those questions seem silly. Yes, it is a new offense. And yes, Robinson and Hoke and Borges will figure it out. Because not only is Robinson a special player, but there’s something different about him.

Denard Robinson has the will to win — and he flashes his brilliant smile along the way.

That’s a better problem to have going into the 2011 season than the situation facing Ohio State at this current moment.

The same day Pryor announced he would forego his senior season and leave the Buckeyes, ESPN reported that in addition to his involvement in a memorabilia-for-tatoos scandal, Pryor had also exchanged signed memorabilia for thousands of dollars of cash.

What did Pryor in, on the field and off of it, was his insatiable desire to cash in on the hype.

He didn’t want to work for anything, or at least we never heard stories out of Columbus similar to Robinson’s summer of sweat. Pryor was supposed to be Cam Newton, before Cam Newton. He was a monster athlete that was supposed to dominate the game.

From day one, Jim Tressel trusted Pryor a bit too much. Tressel gave Pryor the starting spot in his true-freshman season, even with a somewhat-accomplished senior quarterback, Todd Boeckman, ready to go.

If only Pryor took the time to truly become a student of the game. Then, especially with the supporting cast he did have, Pryor would have reached that next level he never could reach. He could have been one of the best players in college football history. Gone from Maurice Clarrett to Ricky Williams.

Don’t get me wrong. Pryor had a terrific three seasons at Ohio State: three Big Ten Championships, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl victories, MVP trophies for those two games, as well as a 31-4 record as a starter. That’s terrific by any means. But it looked like he was jogging through the whole thing. It was as if he knew he could skate by and Big Ten trophies and 10-1 seasons were enough for him. He didn’t crave championships.

If only he had been running full speed, like Robinson, the whole time.

I cringe when I think about that alternate reality that exists somewhere, in some different dimension. That’s the one where Rich Rodriguez got his guy. Terrelle Pryor was running Rodriguez’s fast-break offense where the best receiver is the open receiver. Rodriguez would have most certainly won more games, maybe sticking around. And as for Pryor, who knows if he would have gotten into the same trouble in Ann Arbor. Something tells me that wouldn’t have been a good combination for Michigan in the long run.

On March 19, 2008, it was one or the other. Had Pryor chosen Michigan on that day, then Rodriguez would probably not have recruited both Forcier and Robinson that next season. Who knows where Robinson would be, had that been the case.

If we could play God for one second, imagine Robinson’s intangibles, his heart, his work ethic and maybe his speed inside a prototype body like Pryor’s. That’s the perfect quarterback. And Robinson may not have been physically gifted, but he made up for it with his intangibles, his heart. When it’s all said and done, for all of the “success” Pryor had during his college years, he won’t be the one people remember fondly. He proved he wasn’t a special, once-in-a-while kind of player, like Robinson could become.

That’s why when you walk through the Diag next fall and see Robinson with his long dreadlocks, he’ll flash a big smile when you call his name. He’s a real person, who had to work real hard for the success he has achieved.

—Rohan celebrated his 18th birthday on March 19, 2008. He can be reached at trohan@umich.edu.

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