Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson was chosen to give the keynote speech Friday at the Big Ten football Kickoff Luncheon.
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CHICAGO -- Denard Robinson acknowledged his comfort level on the football field.
He's found that he's at ease calling plays in front of 100,000 fans at Michigan Stadium, or in front of a fraction less at some other Big Ten schools.
He creates a certain comfort zone for himself when he has to perform.
Put him in a more intimate setting -- at a podium in front of a room of 1,100 people sitting in a banquet hall, sipping the last of their coffee and brushing the crumbs of lunch off their laps -- and Robinson has to create a different zone for himself.
It's not necessarily a comfort zone. But it's not necessarily a caution zone, either.
Robinson gave the keynote speech Friday at the Big Ten football Kickoff Luncheon at McCormick Place and, the Wolverines quarterback explained, operating in front of an audience is almost a responsibility for him.
But on the football field, he's used to having a certain support system surrounding him.
"You've got teammates around you and people on the sidelines talking to you," Robinson said Friday morning, before giving his speech. "That's what I've been doing all of my life. Now, I'm not a professional speaker, and I'm not a professional football player. But I've know I've done this long enough not to be shy."
After Thursday's media sessions, Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs posted a photo to his Twitter account of Robinson standing alone at the podium, preparing to practice the speech he'd written for the luncheon -- a designation that goes to one player each season, who speaks on behalf of the other players in attendance, typically three players from each of the 12 Big Ten teams.
The Clay graduate even warned the media before the luncheon that what Robinson would say might leave some in a bit of a shock. Either that, or it might have people hanging onto his every word.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke saw the opportunity for Robinson to address the crowd as a way to strengthen the quarterback's personal makeup.
"It's important with his growth," Hoke said. "And it's a great honor to be selected to do this."
When he stepped to the podium, Robinson began by acknowledging his predecessor, former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, who spoke at last years' kickoff luncheon.
He discussed his childhood in South Florida, an older brother of his who died when he was 10 years old and to whom he prays before every game.
He shared his favorite song lyric.
"I don't set out to be diffferent. I set out to be me, and that's different," Robinson said, citing rapper Lil Wayne.
Later, he shared his favorite saying.
"Character is who you are when no one else is watching," he told the audience. And, he added, it seems like everyone is watching him.
Through the course of the speech, he stressed choices. The choice he made to leave South Florida for the opportunity to go to college.
The choice he made to stay at Michigan after former Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez was dismissed in January of 2011.
The choice he makes every day to behave properly.
The choice, he said, he's made not to take the easy way out, like others he had known who had more gifts and talents than him but who chose to take the wrong path in life.
The choices he made, he explained, helped him. The tough choices, he said, won't stop.
"Today I realized I'm blessed, and I embrace that," Robinson said. "It's OK to work hard. It's OK to be uncommon. It's OK to use our stories, our platforms, to help others."
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: email@example.com, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.
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