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September 03, 2013 - Image 39

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-09-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 3E

Zach Helfand: Dear Denard

Daily Sports Editor
JAN. 1, 2013 - TAMPA,
Fla. - Even after it was over,
Denard, you made three strang-
ers smile.
After the miracle attempt
failed and the clock ran out
Tuesday, after South Carolina
pulled out a 33-28 victory in the
final seconds, you walked to the
middle of the field and shook
For once, you didn't smile.
A group of three stadium
staffers approached you with a
camera phone. It was 4:44 p.m.,
two minutes after your career
ended. The pain was still fresh -
you hadn't even made it off the
field. Yet, at your lowest point,
you posed with them for a photo.
One last memory.
Thirty-seven minutes later, at
your press conference, you talk-
ed about memories, sitting on a
black plastic chair in a dim con-
crete alcove beneath Raymond
James Stadium. On the cinder-
block wall above your head, on
laminated paper, someone had
scrawled "16 Robinson" in red
dry-erase marker, as if a remind-
er were necessary. Here, still no
smile, just downcast looks and
shiny glass eyes.
"I want (the fans) to remem-
ber whatever they want to
remember," you said. "The ups
and downs."
They already do. They
remember the little things.
A teacher from western New
York took his friends to their
first Michigan game. It was your
first too. You fumbled a ball and
picked it up and ran for a touch-
down. They've been fans ever
since. *
A law student watched your
freshman year, and at first, he
thought you were just a speedy
athlete. Then he saw the look
on your face after you threw a
game-ending interception at
Iowa. He saw how devastated
you were; he saw how much you

cared too.
Ups and downs.
A sophomore watched your
improbable win over the Irish
twoyears later.Afteryourgame-
winning pass to Roy Roundtree,
he felt like he was swept up in
a wave, like the student sec-
tion had swollen and burst. He
hugged weeping strangers.
Everyone has his own photo-
graph of your career.
The reporters asked questions
about your legacy. You said you
don't know what it should be.
These four years were long
and messy. How do you con-
dense four years into a neat
picture? How do you define a
Sometimes your crazy scram-
bles worked. Sometimes they
didn't. But like the law student,
we cared because you cared.
Because you danced with us at
basketball games. Because you
were one of us.
We cared because when there
wasn't much to be excited about,
you supplied the excitement. As
Desmond Howard said of you
Tuesday, "The whole nation,
when they watched him play,
just kind of held their breath."
It was messy, but that's okay.
We don't need to define you. We
have our memories.
As you talked, nearby, your
teammate, Quinton Washing-
ton, described what he'd remem-
ber about your career. It's not
just the plays on the field. It's the
effect you had on people off it.
Just this year, a junior saw
you walking into Angell Hall.
You smiled at everyone as you
held the door for your class-
mates. You told her to have a
good day, and she did.
Last year, a senior sat next
to you at the library. Surely you
don't remember him. But he'll
remember forever. You offered
him a piece of your Kit Kat.
Chin up, Denard, we need
your smile.
But we didn't get the goodbye
right, did we? After four years,

Quarterback Denard Robinson will play for the Jacksonville Jaguars this fall.

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