Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is a 2012 Heisman candidate looking ahead to a promising season likely to make or break his dreams of playing in the NFL. But the man known as “Shoelace” isn’t wasting time comparing himself to successful, young quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford or Andy Dalton. He’s more intrigued by a speedier adversary: Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt.
A confident and often scintillating rusher with the ball in his hands—by the end of this season, he could challenge the all-time rushing record for college quarterbacks—Robinson likes his chances in a short-yardage duel with Bolt, the London 2012 gold-medalist in the 100 and 200 meters.
At Michigan’s media day on Sunday, Robinson told Fox Sports Detroit:
I've watched [Bolt] run, and I'm pretty sure I can beat him in a 40-yard dash. I'd get a better start, and I could take him.
At 60 yards, I'd be in trouble, and at 100 meters, he'd be gone, but I could get him in a 40.
Sound ridiculous? Probably.
But when you consider Bolt’s notoriously slow starts—he won the 100 in London only after bursting away from the pack in the final 40 meters—maybe Shoelace has a point.
And Robinson’s former understudy-turned-Wolverines wide receiver Devin Gardner agrees that his quarterback could challenge the world’s fastest man.
"Denard could do that in a heartbeat—he's the fastest man in the world," Gardner told Fox Sports Detroit on Sunday.
"I know what Usain Bolt did in the Olympics, and Denard probably couldn't beat him at 100 meters, but when it comes to football speed at 40 yards, I'd take Denard. He's that fast."
Still, in breaking down Bolt's 20-meter splits, ESPN track reporter Larry Rawson said on radio that the Jamaican's 40 time would probably break four seconds:
Forty yards, if he was being hand-timed by a scout and reacting to his movement—not electronically timed the way they do it [in track and field]—his 40-yard dash on a track, in spikes, would be 3.73 seconds.
Now Robinson may be ridiculously quick with the ball in his hands, but there are several other skills on which he must improve for Michigan to be legitimate contenders for the national title.
But second-year head coach Brady Hoke is pleased with the advancements Robinson has made prior to his senior season.
What has progressed the most?
"I think his maturity and leadership and how he approaches the game from being a quarterback,” Hoke told reporters on Sunday (via MGoBlue.com). “What he's done in the offseason—watching football, watching technique, watching fundamentals. I think in all that part of it I've seen growth.
“…From a fundamental standpoint I think he's improved. We're going to talk about that all the time. He's still going to throw a ball off his back foot every now and then, and probably shouldn't throw a ball over the middle late, but he's improved in a lot of ways. I'm really proud of him."
Robinson might never be the perfect, prototypical quarterback. But it’s nice to see that he has stars like Bolt in his sights.
Let’s just hope that Michigan’s opening game against Alabama doesn’t leave Shoelace seeing stars.