Fairy-tale career might not have fairy-tale ending for Denard Robinson
ANN ARBOR -- Denard Robinson picked up a muffed snap and burst for a 43-yard touchdown run on his first play at quarterback in Michigan Stadium, offering an early glimpse of what his four-year career would offer.
Now it's possible that he's already played his final snap in the stadium that made him famous.
Robinson has missed the past two games with a nerve injury in his throwing elbow. Coach Brady Hoke has refused to offer an update on his senior quarterback, saying only that he's "day to day."
With his final home game looming Saturday against Iowa, it's possible his career in that stadium is finished. Hoke said he wouldn't rush Robinson back to make one last appearance before the fans he wowed for four years.
"That won't have anything to do with it," Hoke said. "His health is what will have to do with it."
Junior receiver Devin Gardner has moved back to quarterback to spell Robinson and performed admirably, leading Michigan to two wins. He was the architect of two fourth-quarter comebacks Saturday against Northwestern and rushed for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
But this remains Robinson's team. He arrived on campus as a shy, soft-spoken, raw talent that morphed into a modern legend, breaking several school marks and setting the Big Ten rushing record for quarterbacks along the way.
That fairy-tale career, though, may not have a fairy-tale ending.
"Everybody wants to go out the way they dreamed coming into Michigan, but however things unfold, it's out of our hands," offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said.
"We just have to play the hand we've been dealt and keep moving forward."
Hoke has stayed mum on injury updates regarding Robinson, and was reluctant Monday even to talk about Robinson's legacy and what he's meant to Michigan's revival the past two seasons. But the disappointment is evident.
"I think anytime a guy can't finish, because of injury or whatever, you're disappointed," Hoke said.
Robinson has turned in his helmet for a baseball cap and headset, offering Gardner and the offense words of encouragement as they continue their Big Ten title pursuit without him.
He's helped mentor Gardner on the sidelines during games, dispensing wisdom he's picked up during his three years as starter.
"He's a source of encouragement," Omameh said. "He's the kind of guy who whatever he can do for the team, no matter what capacity it is, he'll try to do it."
Robinson still could return, although the vibe around the program regarding his status suggests the odds are long that will come Saturday.
Michigan finishes the regular season the following week at Ohio State, and it has qualifed for a bowl game. It remains unclear when or whether Robinson's services will be available.
Either way, his exploits as Michigan's quarterback will long be remembered, whether or not he gets to show them one last time for the hometown fans.
"Denard has thrust himself into the talk of some of the greats at the University of Michigan," defensive lineman Craig Roh said.