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TAMPA — Denard Robinson has insisted over and over that he’s not thinking about the future. But as each day passes, his time with the Michigan football program is finite.
Robinson’s final game with the Wolverines remains — Tuesday’s Outback Bowl against No. 11 South Carolina (10-2).
And while some would lament the fact that the end is near, Robinson instead has chosen to savor that last time he wears a Michigan football uniform.
The senior will be able to do it in his home state of Florida, in front of friends and family at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team that Robinson grew up rooting for — and he even admits he owns a Shaun King jersey from his days with the Buccaneers. “I get to finish up in my home state and it’s a great feeling,” Robinson said.
“It’s a great feeling to be with my teammates and with the coaching staff and with great people in these surroundings. I wouldn’t change this.”
The 22-year-old senior remains a focal point for the No. 19 Wolverines (8-4), even though he hasn’t thrown a pass in a game since Oct. 27, when he suffered an injury to the ulnar nerve in his right arm in a 23-9 loss at Nebraska.
In more than two months’ time, he has sat out two games and played in two more games, in the Wolverines’ deuce formation, in which Devin Gardner takes the snap at quarterback while Robinson lines up at running back or receiver, or vice versa.
But after Robinson got hurt, teammates said he didn’t dwell on the fact that he couldn’t directly contribute to the team.
“How humble he is, you will never meet more of a humble person,” offensive lineman Taylor Lewan said. “When Devin started playing quarterback it wasn’t, ‘dammit, I’m not playing quarterback.’ It was, ‘what can I do to help the team?’ ”
But there’s a different meaning for Robinson in being able to play in the Sunshine State.
Coming out of Deerfield Beach High School, about 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, Rivals.com ranked Robinson No. 188 among the top 250 prospects in the country in 2009 — the same year that Florida’s high school ranks produced Alabama and Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson and Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde.
“I was wondering how all the Florida schools overlooked him when he went to Michigan,” South Carolina wide receiver and Bradenton, Fla., native Ace Sanders said.
Robinson considered Florida and Georgia for track — and ran track his freshman year at Michigan — as well as Central Florida for football. Recruited as a position player by Urban Meyer when he was at Florida, Robinson wouldn’t have gotten the chance to play at quarterback right away, as Tim Tebow was planning to return to the Gators for his final season.
“Who would have thought I would be playing for Michigan, four years ago?” Robinson said.
After playing as a true freshman at quarterback and starting at the position his sophomore year, Robinson’s breakthrough came September 10, 2011, when he spearheaded the decisive drive that resulted in Michigan’s 35-31 win over Notre Dame.
With one game left at Michigan, Robinson holds or shares 11 records at Michigan (including the most career interceptions, with 39) and is the Big Ten’s all-time leading rushing quarterback with 4,395 yards.
While Michigan’s coaches have remained mum on where Robinson will play in his final game with the Wolverines, many NFL draft prognosticators see a professional future for Robinson, though not necessarily at quarterback. That step, Robinson insists, is still a few days away.
“After this week, I’ll probably start thinking about that,” Robinson said.
Jordan Kovacs said he hasn’t discussed with Robinson the fact that this is the final game for Michigan’s seniors. But Kovacs said Robinson’s excitement is obvious.
“His family hasn’t been able to make it to a whole lot of games up in Ann Arbor, being so far away,” Kovacs said. “But I know he’s very excited about being able to play in front of his home crowd.
“He has family right in this area and they’ll all get to watch him first hand, in one of the first times,” Kovacs said. “And the last time.”
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.