When the game clock ran out in Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, the Michigan Wolverines were forced to come to grips with a sad truth, one of the greatest athletes in the history of their storied program, Denard Robinson, had donned the fabled winged helmet for the final time.
The critics can say whatever they like about whether or not Robinson should be considered one of the top quarterbacks of all time, but no one can ever dispute that the Deerfield Beach, Fla. native should be a first-ballot college football Hall of Famer and is arguably the greatest athlete to play for the Maize and Blue.
Robinson took over as Michigan's starting quarterback in 2010 after the Wolverines failed to finish above .500 for a second straight season under head coach Rich Rodriguez, and went on to become the first player in NCAA history to throw for 2,500 yards and rush for 1,500 yards in a single season.
The 6'0", 197-pounder also broke the NCAA single-season and career records for rushing yards by a quarterback, and Robinson is the only player in the history of college football to throw and rush for 200 yards in three games.
Additionally, Robinson amassed 10,776 total yards and scored 91 touchdowns in four seasons at Michigan. Both of those marks are school records.
The 2010 Big Ten Most Valuable Player rushed for more yards than any other Wolverine except Mike Hart, became only the eighth player in conference history to accrue 10,000 yards of offense and rushed for over 100 yards in 20 games.
Oh, and in case you forgot: Robinson garnered first-team All-American honors as a running back in 2010.
It is not as if Robinson did not win his fair share of games as Michigan's starting quarterback, either.
In three seasons at the helm of the Wolverines offense, Robinson carried Michigan to two wins over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish—one each against the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans—along with an 11-2 record and a victory in the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
Not even former Michigan great Chad Henne managed to beat the Buckeyes, despite breaking multiple school records during his outstanding four-year reign as a starting quarterback.
There is no denying Robinson struggled to consistently deliver accurate passes when called upon to make throws down the field, yet he still found a way to lead the Wolverines to 23 victories in his 34 starts.
One of the only other knocks on Robinson is that the Wolverines were not able to win a Big Ten title during his tenure as Michigan's signal-caller, which is why former greats like Rick Leach, Tom Harmon and Charles Woodson are in a class of their own.
However, Robinson did a lot more with significantly less talent around him than almost all of Michigan's all-time greats.
Robinson never had a receiver like Braylon Edwards, Marquise Walker or Desmond Howard to bail him out, or running backs like Chris Perry, Anthony Thomas or Jamie Morris to help establish a formidable rushing attack.
Even Robinson will be quick to admit that his career with the Wolverines also featured plenty of low points to accompany the incredible highs. It is inevitable that the fans will remember the various peaks and valleys.
"I want (the fans) to remember whatever they want to remember -- the ups and downs," Robinson told reporters after the Outback Bowl, according to MLive.com. "I know I'm going to remember the downs, and ups."
Michigan fans should choose to dwell on the highs, concede Robinson's shortcomings as a quarterback to rival fans, and remember No. 16 for everything he did for the Wolverines as a leader on and off the field since 2009.
Robinson led the Wolverines out of the darkness left behind by Rodriguez's three seasons in Ann Arbor, and ushered the Maize and Blue back into the national spotlight during head coach Brady Hoke's first two years.
All in all, Big Ten title or not, Robinson deserves to be mentioned among the greatest players in the history of Michigan football.
It did not always look great, but Robinson's record-breaking performances, electrifying runs and career statistics all speak for themselves.
Follow me on Twitter @ZachDirlam_SSN.
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