Shoelace and Stuff …

  • BY Lisa Byington
  • 9.18.12

It’s hard not to smile when you’re sitting with Denard Robinson for ten minutes.

It’s contagious.

He gets recognized all the time on campus, that’s no secret. After another big number performance after the Air Force game, his philosophy professor singled him out in class and told him “thank you.”

Denard immediately responded back. “I told her, no thank YOU,” he said flashing his smile. “She said, ‘Oh! Ok!’ I don’t think she knew what to say.”

Denard just wants to be one of the guys … his athletic ability won’t let him.

And so comes a greater responsibility to be a leader. His speech at the B1G Media Day Luncheon in Chicago this past summer is now well-documented.  The player who could barely give a seven second answer in an interivew, was the one who pursued Justin Dickens (Michigan’s Associate Communications Director for football) to do it. So they worked, and rewrote, and worked, and rewrote, and practiced. And practiced some more.

“I got there and got stage fright,” Denard admitted. “Then I realized it’s just like playing football, like getting that first hit. Once that happens, you relax. My brother told me my Mom started crying when she saw it.”

When he addresses the team, that experience helps him. In fact, he talks to everyone a bit differently now.

“His input during games has changed,” Offensive Coordinator Al Borges said. “He doesn’t ask for plays. Never does that. But he now tells you something (on headset) that makes your next call better.”

He made sure he stayed on the headset Saturday, even when his day was done, and  Russell Bellomy took his spot against UMass. “He mentors him alot,” said Borges.

Don’t be surprised to see Denard bonding with all the quarterbacks on Thursday nights at the local bowling alley. In case you were wondering, he says 170 is his best score. And tying his bowling shoes? “Of course not,” he says … with that smile.



Walk-on Wonder:

Jordan Kovacs says he still gets messages on Facebook from people on how they have been inspired by his walk-on to leader story. He will always write them back, and has even reached out to some potential walk-ons to help them tryout….giving them numbers to call, etc. He joked he doesn’t get recognized as much as Denard, but when he does, he almost gets the raised eyebrow look, like, “YOU’RE JORDAN KOVACS?!?!” he said. “They look me up and down like .. if YOU can do it, I can do it.”

Center of Attention: 

Al Borges says the center switch from Ricky Barnum to Elliott Mealer had to do with snapping ability. “In our zone read game, the quality of snaps has become more important,” Borges explained. Barnum blocked and protected well, but his snaps were too erratic. So they moved Barnum back to where he’s comfortable.

By the way, Borges says Mealer’s beard looks like “Grizzly Adams.”

Odds and Ends … 

** Speaking of lots of hair, Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison on Jake Ryan’s long hair: “Ten years ago, I would say get a haircut. Now I just say, make plays.”

** Mattison on Frank Clark being back with team: “He made a mistake and he paid his price. It’s our job as coaches to help kids. Frank Clark learned a valuable lesson. This team is everything to him.”

** Brady Hoke on where this team is at before Notre Dame: “We haven’t scratched the surface yet.”

** Al Borges on the two Devins (Gardner and Funchess): “They have the purest skill and overall athleticism out of anyone on the team.”



about the author

Lisa Byington has worked for BTN, FOX, CBS, Turner, and ESPN. She earned her BSJ and MSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She also played four years of basketball and two years of soccer for the Wildcats.