A Thank You to Denard

Submitted by My name ... is Tim on November 29th, 2011 at 5:18 PM

Sometime after the 2003 incarnation of The Game, I remember walking past a belligerent Ohio State fan by Bell's Pizza on my way back to my house on Packard Avenue across from the weird laundromat/hardware store/hot-dog shop that sits on the very end of Arch Street. I can't really recall the specifics, but he was angrily belittling Michigan despite the outcome of the game. I believe a beer or a punch was thrown by Ohio-guy, who was easily pushed to the ground and subdued by a throng of Michigan Men enjoying the opportunity to righteously enact some minor harmless violence on a Buckeye mouth-breather. We were sick of the cockiness and undeserved arrogance that 2002 had brought to their already aggravating fan base. Until that win we had little to say in response. Now? We were back. Our fall from the mountain brief.

The cops came and it was broken up. We all laughed about how stupid a guy must be to initiate a fight with Michigan fans in Ann Arbor after The Game. Our sense of superiority - already mounting after the victory and the subsequent field-storming - grew ever larger. We were content. Order had been restored to the Michigan football universe after a national championship was delivered to Columbus the previous fall. We planned a trip to Los Angeles for the Rose Bowl that coming New Year's.

I recalled that moment this week for a number of reasons, not the least of which was my desire to feel connected somehow to the emotions that must be flowing through Ann Arbor right now. I couldn't recall whether I had joined the fray. I believe a handful of my friends had, and I somewhat often found myself needlessly entering frays in college and shortly thereafter. While this was partially due to some heightened sense of duty to my friends - although that usually was my (post-hoc) justification - I've always found that there's something inherently and undeniably thrilling about knocking someone down who deserves it. Also, blind rage. That doesn't suit my narrative though.

The familiar post-game story following Saturday's win has focused primarily on the seniors, and they deserve it. They fought through thick and thin. They undeniably dealt with more bullshit than any Michigan team in recent memory, and to be sent off on Senior Day with a win over Ohio is their well-earned, just reward.

But looking back on that Saturday in 2003, it got me thinking about Denard's journey to Saturday. How his climb to the top of the mountain was so much more arduous than it was for that 2003 team. How he must have felt knocking out the naysayers he knew were wrong all along, once for and all.

  Denard Robinson #16 Of The Michigan Wolverines Celebrates

Let's go back to January 2011. Michigan had just been throttled not only by Ohio State but by a middling SEC team that would return a majority of its starters and go 6-6 next year. Denard's head coach who had recruited him to Michigan to play quarterback was fired. Michigan's rivals openly mocked our fall from grace. A new pro-style sheriff was coming to town. Many questioned whether Denard should stay or go.

We've all heard the memes. Denard can't be successful in the Big Ten. Michigan is finished. Michigan needs to clean house and return to statues in the pocket, etc., etc.

Denard and his team had been the whipping boys of the media and the often less than classy opposition they call their rivals. They may not have attacked him - although in some instances they certainly did - but more importantly they were attacking Michigan and his Michigan family. Denard all along believed that their criticism was bullshit. He might not have Brady Hoke's background, but to Denard Robinson, "This is Michigan fergodsakes" is a saying that rings true and holds perhaps an even deeper meaning than it does to anyone else. After all, where but Michigan could his story have unfolded the way it did. Denard knew that they had something special. So Denard stayed.

Denard though, wasn't hell-bent on knocking his detractors down because "that would show them" or because "they deserved it". No, he's likely a much better person than I was. Denard's quest for a return to Michigan glory was undeniably driven by the duty he felt he owed to his teammates, his coaches and to this university. Denard would restore order to the universe. Denard would show the world what he could do, not to prove his doubters wrong, but so that these seniors could defiantly and proudly proclaim that Michigan never went anywhere. That these group of players don't care what anyone else says: this is Michigan and this group of players commands and deserves your respect. 

So all Denard did was go out and play one of the single greatest games this rivalry has seen. Commanding an offense that heretofore this rivalry had maybe never seen. Beating back the undeservedly arrogant and smug naysayers, who for so long had relished his and his team's failures. This Saturday was not theirs. This Saturday was Denard's. This Saturday was Michigan's. Denard's turn to knock the weakened yet defiant challengers to the ground. For Michigan. For his teammates. He endured what we likely could not. He struck the blow that we definitively could not. For Michigan. For his teammates.

On November 26, 2011, order was restored to the Michigan football universe. We owe Denard a big thank you for that.

Comments

03 Blue 07

November 29th, 2011 at 6:12 PM ^

Well-played, OP. Definitely, 2003 sounds like it was way sweeter than in 2005 when I spent the post-game vomiting on your front porch, angry at the world, possibly fighting back tears of anger. Sucks I wasn't there in '03. Although it's probably a good thing; I was waaay too quick to jump into such a kerfuffle as occurred outside of Bell's back then.

bluebelle

November 29th, 2011 at 8:05 PM ^

For me, Denard has always been just so easy to root for because of his great attitude off the field, as much as his electric play on the field. Hoke may not have recruited him, but they seem to share the same sense of humble dedication and love for the team. I look around at some of the players and coaches on our rival teams, and can't help but think -- how lucky are we that these are the guys we get to cheer for?

JCM26

November 29th, 2011 at 10:50 PM ^

Needless to say Denard is so very special to this team and to our wonderful fans. He is an outstanding role model for youngsters across the country by representing all that is good in amateur sports. Hopefully with this years’ experience to refine his technique and sharpen his QB skills he will soar through the 2013 season at stratospheric levels.

ThornXBL

November 29th, 2011 at 11:58 PM ^

When I saw Denard jamming to "The Show Goes On" during the 2nd half warm-up, I couldn't help but smile. He is truly a class act, and he has so much fun doing what he does that it is contagious.

bluewave720

November 30th, 2011 at 6:59 AM ^

A couple of weeks ago in my office, a Spartan fan asked me what I thought of Denard.  I have a 3 year old daughter and told him that in 25 years or so, I'd be proud to call Denard my son in law. 

I have also, because of Denard, started to understand the whole "our kids need good role models" stuff.  I don't need an athlete to mentor my child or teach her what is right and what is wrong.  I feel quite comfortable doing that with the help of my wife.  But I need to know that my daughter's current affection towards an athlete won't lead to disappointment.  I am comforted by the fact that I won't have to explain to my daughter why DR needs to "sit in timeout" for making poor decisions.

On Saturday night, I put my daughter to bed after getting home from The Game.  I always tell her stories and they always have Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby in them, per her request.  I was as happy as a clam when she asked that Denard Robinson make a special guest appearance that night.  

aalguire

November 30th, 2011 at 12:49 AM ^

Thank you Denard. I admire your decision to stay at Michigan and your desire to improve and break the molds. You have given us some great highlights and some gaudy numbers even when the records weren't as gilded.

South TX MFan

November 30th, 2011 at 7:11 AM ^

I was afraid he was going to leave for a team that ran more of a spread offense. Looking back I feel almost ashamed for even thinking that he'd bail. Obviously the team and university mean much more than that to him. He's a helluva player but more importantly a helluva person. How can you not like the guy?

UMFanStuckInIA

November 30th, 2011 at 11:24 AM ^

 

Nice work on the piece.  It is always enjoyable for me to read detailed accounts of great past game day experiences and how they compare to the present.  Without the great lows and disappointments of late, maybe we would not be able to truly appreciate the joy of last Saturday?

For staying, thank you Mr. Robinson.  As many have already said, it is an absolute pleasure to watch my two boys mimic "Denard" every Saturday in the backyard.  Knowing I will never have to explain away negative press or an arrogant interview, just a happy smile and a tribute to teamwork and his teammates.  No question in my mind he should be considered one of the great Michigan Wolverines of all time.  For both his work on and off the football field.

It saddens me this Saturday will not be spent watching the Maize and Blue.

GoBlueGladstone

November 30th, 2011 at 11:59 AM ^

...from Denard's smile, Martavious' late season heroics, Heininger's unforeseen rise, Toussaint's maturity, Martin's commitment and Van Bergen's passion, this collection of young men restored - more reaffirmed - my faith in Michigan even before "The Game." I haven't wanted a win more for them than myself as an alumnus in a long time. The previous losses since 2005 had really been about my sense of self worth in relation to the larger football universe and the prestige of the U. I actually cheered "For Those That Stayed" above all else.  

DTWNwa

November 30th, 2011 at 2:24 PM ^

Great intro to article. We must remember History and the postion we were in before each "last Saturday in November":

 

2003: Navarre and his 0-2 record against them, they were defending natl champs, we were really good cept for a half in Minnesota, Oregon and Iowa. The 03 team is one of my favs, Perry!

2004: The fab frosh and Braylon, They were in term oil, cover of USA Today sportspage foretold of what transpired in the Spring of 2011. We were heavy favorites, scored easlily on our first drive. Then it happened for the first of seven times.

2005: This was gut wrenching, We had a bye, the Mildcats then the game and still couldn't get it done. We had the whole month of Nov to prepare. They were Very talented. Last time before 2011 we should have won.

2006: The Crable hit killed us but didn't lose the game for us. Don't like thinking about this one. Terrible day.

2007: They played with one hand tied behind their backs. Beanie, punt, play defense. Rinse and repeat. Henne healthy would've helped but we were out classed again. So long Coach Carr, say hi to Rich Rod on the sideline in Florida.

2008: Poor Nick Sheridan. Varsity against JV. Stupid red wristband, what was he thinking?

2009: Varsity against JV II, Sweatervest could have beat us by 30 but reverted to the 2007 blueprint. Defense and punt team. This was a low point because it wasnt going to be any better down there in 365 days. We now had 2 years until any glimmer of hope.

2010: Did anyone think we had a chance after Barry Alvarez ran the ball 412 times in a row  in the 2nd half the week before. The countdown clock for the Salvation Army UM Gear Auction was in high gear now. 

2011: Nard Wars, where did this Defensive front come from, Boy is Thomas Rawls good, I mean Fitz, is really good. Order was restored in 8 days from November 19-26 by hammering the Cornhuskers and Them.

Remember everytime ND wins a game against a Top 50 team SI puts them on the cover and proclaims they are Back! Hoke has alot of work to continue but he will. Watch Meyer's presser and then YouTube Hoke's. It not comparable. Hoke would've walked to Ann Arbor, Meyer needed 40mm reasons.

Go BLUE!!!

ND Sux

November 30th, 2011 at 3:34 PM ^

of Denard's accuracy earlier in the year...lately not so much. 

I just watched the offense every snap vs. Ohio video (thanks "Boyz 'n da Pahokee"), and Denard was nothing short of heroic in that game.  A lot of TEAMS didn't rush for 170 against Ohio this year. 

Denard, you fuckin' ROCKED last Saturday. 

maizenblue87

November 30th, 2011 at 7:20 PM ^

Denard has represented Michigan so well, both on and off the field. I think back to a story on MGoBlog earlier this year which showed the correspondence between Denard and a young fan from New York I believe. No headlines, he just nicely wrote back to the kid. So humble which is refreshing these days.