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What Happened to Denard Robinson & Where is He Now?
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

“Shoelace” may not seem like the most exciting nickname. Still, you should make no mistake about the dynamism of former college quarterback Denard Robinson.

His standout NCAA career made him a legend among fans of the Michigan Wolverines and frankly among college football fans in general. He even landed on the cover of “NCAA Football 14,” still the greatest video game in football history. His NFL career may not have lived up to those lofty standards, but we still get that jolt anytime we think about Robinson doing his thing with a pigskin in his hand.

Since re-writing the record books in Ann Arbor, where is Denard Robinson today?

Early Life & College Career

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Denard Robinson earned the nickname “Shoelace” when he played pee-wee football and left his shoes untied.

As a high school football player in Deerfield Beach, Florida, Robinson was first approached to play cornerback but eventually became the school’s starting quarterback. The uncertainty continued into his college career. ESPN listed him as an “athlete” for their recruiting rankings. The Michigan football program first recruited him as a defensive back, which Robinson declined. He wanted to play quarterback, and eventually the Wolverines relented.

Robinson was not named the Michigan quarterback as a true freshman, but the team made sure he got his touches. In fact, in the 2009 season opener, Robinson and his untied shoelaces took a shotgun snap against Western Michigan. It was his first snap at the NCAA level, and though he fumbled, he recovered and ran the ball for a 43-yard touchdown. This was an early sign of the kind of offensive weapon Robinson could become.

Robinson was named the starter for the 2010 opener against UConn and picked up 186 passing yards and 197 rushing yards. His 383 total yards set a Michigan record. That was exciting, but then he went ahead and posted 502 yards against Notre Dame the next week, obliterating his own Michigan record.

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By the end of the 2010 campaign, “Shoelace” had been named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and a First-Team All-American. Though the 2010 season ended with a change in the coaching staff — Rich Rodriguez got the boot as head coach, and Brady Hoke came in — Robinson decided to stay in Ann Arbor.

In 2011, Robinson became the fourth player ever with over 2,000 passing yards and over 1,000 rushing yards and was naturally named the team MVP for the second season in a row. His 2012 season was hindered by injury, but Robinson still topped Pat White’s FBS record for most career rushing yards for a quarterback, a record now owned by Keenan Reynolds. The latter played in Navy’s triple-option offense.

Robinson’s college career has left him all over the Michigan record books to this day.

He owns seven of the 10 highest-yardage games in Wolverines history. His successor, Devin Gardner, owns the current record thanks to a massive game against Indiana. Jake Rudock is in second with a game against…Indiana. Robinson’s 2010 performance against Indiana ranks fourth. Man, the Hoosiers sucked defensively for a few years there, huh?

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Denard Robinson NFL Career

Robinson was a dynamic athlete, but he recognized that his NFL future was likely not at quarterback.

Before the 2013 NFL Draft, he said he was comfortable changing positions. He went to the Senior Bowl as a wide receiver and got invited to the NFL Scouting Combine at that position. His 4.43 40-yard dash time showed he had the speed to play at the NFL level. In the end, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected him in the fifth round. When they did, they listed him as a running back.

In his first season with the Jags, Robinson only got 20 touches for 66 yards. The 2014 season went more smoothly, as totaled his only 100-yard rushing game in his NFL career. “Shoelace” finished that campaign with 582 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground while also racking up 23 receptions for 124 yards. Unfortunately, an injury against the Houston Texans cut that campaign short at 13 games.

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The 2015 season was also cut short by injury due to an MCL sprain against the Miami Dolphins. Robinson only received 67 carries and 21 catches that year. By 2016, the Jaguars seemed done with the Robinson experiment.

During the 2017 offseason, he tried to latch on as a free agent with the Chicago Bears and New York Jets but didn’t sign with either team. In 2019, he ended up with the Atlanta Legends of the Alliance of American Football. He served as a backup running back, but you may recall that the AAF didn’t even finish an entire season of action.

Denard Robinson Now

After the AAF shut down, the 31-year-old Robinson retired from playing football and joined the staff at Jacksonville University. He served as both an offensive analyst and the assistant to the team’s special teams coordinator Steven Sylvester.

Jacksonville University then proceeded to discontinue its football team after the 2019 season. We don’t believe in jinxes, but first the AAF and then Jacksonville University? We’re just saying.

In 2020, Robinson returned to the Jaguars as an offensive quality control coach. However, once Urban Meyer was hired before the 2021 season, Robinson was kicked up to the front office. He now works as a college scouting assistant.

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Robinson also has an adorable son he spends a good deal of time with. During the coronavirus pandemic, Robinson helped his son hit some basketball trick shots.

Robinson was one of those players who seemed destined to be a college legend but an NFL afterthought. His skillset was perfect as a dual-threat college quarterback, but he lacked the size and passing skills of, say, a Cam Newton.

Hey, Michigan Wolverine fans don’t care. “Shoelace” is still a hero in Ann Arbor. He probably always will be.

MORE: Pat White Set NCAA Records at West Virginia, But Where is He Now?

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Chris Morgan About the author:
Chris Morgan is a Michigan-based writer and a Detroit sports fan who has written about sports and pop culture for a variety of outlets, including a book about Mystery Science Theater 3000 and '90s Nickelodeon. He's happy to complain about the Lions with you anytime.
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