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Michigan Football: Wolverines Fans Should Thank Denard Robinson for Thrills

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Michigan Football: Wolverines Fans Should Thank Denard Robinson for Thrills
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Denard Robinson rushed for 100 yards in the Outback Bowl, but Michigan lost 33-28 to South Carolina.

Michigan Wolverines fans were passionate about Denard Robinson

They either loved him with all their hearts, loyally standing by Shoelace through all the criticism, or they simply couldn't wait until Michigan got a "real" quarterback. 

It was either or. 

Robinson's collegiate career didn't end in storybook fashion.

No, a 33-28 Outback Bowl loss New Year's Day to the South Carolina Gamecocks ended the Shoelace chapters in Ann Arbor, leaving Maize and Blue followers with nothing but memories of Robinson's incredible feats of athleticism, braids and quirky tendency of losing a shoe while scattering away from defenders. 

There are factions of Wolverines supporters that can't wait to see what Devin Gardner can do next season. He notched a 3-1 record in relief of Robinson during the home stretch of the 2012 regular season, lighting up Iowa for six touchdowns and demonstrating an ability to recover from broken plays. 

But there are those who feel incoming recruit Shane Morris could compete for the job, too. While divided on who will play and when, most Wolverines fans can agree on one point: Michigan will have a more traditional-style guy under center this fall. 

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That doesn't mean that Robinson will be easily forgotten. That would never happen. He's one of the historically great athletes to ever suit up for Michigan. A favorite among some fans, Robinson's place in Michigan lore is secure: He was a phenomenal talent that made do during a strange phase in Wolverines football. 

He was caught in the middle of the horrid Rich Rodriguez Era and Brady Hoke's back-to-Michigan-football approach. 

Robinson's tenure at Michigan was tumultuous. Four straight losses to Michigan State, a coaching change and internal dealings with other players made for a dramatic stretch for the Wolverines. 

Shoelace was the lone bright spot. He set records. He filled stands. He generated conversations, both for and against him. He couldn't win in bowl games, they said. He couldn't defeat ranked teams on the road, either. 

Valid points. 

The knocks on Robinson were loud and clear, but he strung together one of the greatest individual runs that college football has ever seen.

Just a snapshot of Tweets from @umichfootball celebrating Robinson's various accomplishments.

Let's break down why fans couldn't stop talking about Robinson. 

 

Shoelace Was So-So Against Rivals

 

Denard Robinson threw four interceptions against Notre Dame in 2012.
Fast-forward to 8:00 to see MSU sack Denard Robinson, who throws a pick during next highlighted play.

Shoelace was pestered by Michigan State, which beat him in two of three meetings. A 12-10 win in 2012 ended that streak, but Robinson was held to minimal production. 

Other than a 34-17 loss in 2010, Robinson never churned out a gaudy stat line against the Spartans. And 2010's stats weren't overly impressive—he threw for a personal-best 215 yards versus his in-state foes. 

But he tossed three interceptions in The Big House. 

Another gripe about Robinson was about when he let loose. Sure, he could devastate lesser teams, but what about the big boys? 

That's not to say this his 186 passing yards and 197 rushing yards in 2010's 30-10 victory UConn weren't mind-boggling, but they came against UConn, not Ohio State or Notre Dame. 

Six turnovers—including four interceptions and a fumble by Robinson—against the Irish all but ensured the 13-6 loss in 2012. Robinson was the goat of that game. He was shelled with criticism for throwing errant passes and making poor decisions. 

He had his days, both good and bad. He graciously accepted praise and criticism, handling himself with dignity no matter the outcome of a game. 

Robinson went 2-1 against Notre Dame, 1-2 against Michigan State and Ohio State.

 

Leadership That Can't Be Denied

 

This Michigan fan loves Denard. Really, he LOVES Denard.

Loving or hating him is one thing. But questioning Robinson's commitment, desire and leadership pertaining to Wolverines football should never happen. 

He took the backseat to Gardner when asked. He played hurt. And if he wasn't on the field, he was bunched in with the coaching staff helping his brothers from the sideline. 

Robinson epitomized the character that Michigan adores. He was authentic and humble, a true captain. Any program would consider itself lucky to land such a dedicated student-athlete. 

In 2010, Robinson helped will the Wolverines to a 67-65 triple-overtime win in over Illinois with 305 passing yards and three touchdowns. It was an ugly game, but it was one of the most thrilling and exciting battles during Robinson's career at Michigan. 

Down 24-7 to Notre Dame in 2011, Robinson erupted for 338 passing yards, none being more important than the game-winning 16-yard connection with Roy Roundtree

In a game they had no business emerging as the victors, the Wolverines ousted the Irish, 35-31, under the lights at Michigan Stadium. It was a career-defining moment for Shoelace. 

 

There Will Never Be Another

 

Denard Robinson responds to "love" video. Always a great sport.

The Wolverines may never have another quarterback like Robinson. And depending on your thoughts about him, that's either great news or a major letdown. 

The spread experiment in Ann Arbor has ended. Expect to see prototypes, not one-in-a-million quarterbacks from this point forward. 

But who else will fumble, lose their shoe and turn a busted play into a touchdown? And who else will do that during their first play? 

No one will. 

That's what made Robinson special. Spectators knew, despite circumstances, that Robinson could pull magic out of thin air and put six points on the board in a matter of seconds. 

Although he never went to a Rose Bowl, won a Big Ten championship or played for a national title like past greats, Robinson is indeed a Michigan football legend who will be talked about for generations. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

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