ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Denard Robinson has created perhaps the biggest buzz in college football with his speedy legs, accurate arm and deft decision-making — not to mention those shoes.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” he insists. “I don’t even have cable.”
Maybe he should get it so he can enjoy the highlights. The jaw-dropping plays by Michigan’s humble quarterback have made him arguably the most exciting player in the game since Reggie Bush and Vince Young were vying for the Heisman Trophy.
Robinson had 502 yards of offense against Notre Dame and scored the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left, topping a performance that seemed like it was going to be tough to beat. He ran and threw for 383 yards in the season-opening win versus Connecticut in his first start.
He was photographed against the Fighting Irish in a pose that might prove to be fitting if he keeps this up — captured in stride, the ball tucked under his left arm and his right arm extended in an uncanny resemblance to the Heisman statue.
Robinson sidesteps questions about winning the award.
“I don’t really care about it right now,” he said.
That’s exactly what coach Rich Rodriguez would want to hear him say, entering what seems to be a relatively easy stretch of games before hosting rival Michigan State next month.
Robinson and the 20th-ranked Wolverines (2-0) might be tested more mentally than physically Saturday in the Big House against Massachusetts, a game followed by a visit from Bowling Green and the Big Ten opener at Indiana.
UMass, an FCS program, seems like the perfect opponent to give Robinson a break after he had 57 carries in the first two games.
Rodriguez, though, isn’t planning on that.
“We’ll do whatever we have to take to win the game,” he said.
So far, the game plan has been to run Robinson left, right and middle when he isn’t rolling out, dropping back or making a play-action fake to throw.
“Everybody says, ‘Well, you can’t run your quarterback 20-some times a game,'” Rodriguez said, sounding slightly annoyed at the suggestion that he’s asking the QB to do too much. “Well, do they say that when they hand it off to Barry Sanders, ‘You can’t run Barry Sanders 27 times a game?’ If he can handle it, he can handle it.”
Robinson’s teammates say he can handle the hype his unique talents, catchy nickname and infectious smile have generated in just two weeks.
The sophomore known as “Shoelace” — he doesn’t tie the laces on his cleats, relying instead on Velcro straps — would be one of the most popular players on the team even if he wasn’t off to a record-breaking start.
“Denard’s probably the best person that could handle this fame,” center David Molk said. “He doesn’t like interviews.”
Robinson, of course, would agree to be interviewed by ESPN analyst Desmond Howard — who won the 1991 Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan after striking a famous pose in the end zone against Ohio State — because they’re big fans of each other.
They met at Michigan spring game in 2009 when he was a senior at Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School and spent more time together because they were on the same flight back to Miami.
“He’s a wonderful, graceful, humble kid,” Howard said. “People were telling us that we look a lot alike — other than his dreads — so we joke that we’re twins.
“We approach the game the same way, too. When he’s not trying to make a move on the field, he’s smiling. Off the field, he’s always smiling. I was the same way.”
Robinson’s high school coach, Art Taylor, said he’s always been like that.
“I love that kid,” Taylor said. “If my son grows up to be like Denard, I’d be thrilled.
“I’m just so proud the way things are working out because a lot of people doubted he could be a college quarterback. Rich Rodriguez and Urban Meyer were two of the few who told him he’d have a shot to be a quarterback.”
Michigan also would’ve likely steered Robinson away from being a QB if Lloyd Carr was still on the sideline, but the retired coach is thrilled he’s taking snaps for the Wolverines.
“He’s an amazing athlete AND an amazing quarterback,” Carr said Saturday night in a telephone interview while watching Robinson play Notre Dame. “He’s special, no doubt.”
Robinson, meanwhile, is taking such praise in stride and simply says he just wants to play with his teammates on the field and hang out with them off it while staying true to his upbringing.
“My mom raised me to be humble and to always keep your eyes on the prize,” he said. “You can’t say, ‘I’m the man.'”