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            === Shoelace attempts to redefine himself in the NFL ===
 
 By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - During much of his four years at Michigan,
 Denard Robinson was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, making a
 spectacular impact on the game with both his arm and his legs.
 
 But while the one affectionately nicknamed 'Shoelace' is surely on the radar
 of many NFL executives for next week's draft, his playing days under center
 are surely all but over.
 
 Leading a Michigan program that has churned out several successful, but more
 traditional, drop-back style quarterbacks like Elvis Grbac, Brian Griese, Tom
 Brady and Chad Henne over the past two decades, Robinson bucked the trend for
 the Maize and Blue with his dual-threat ability. He exploded on to the scene
 as a full-time starter in 2010 as a sophomore, and put together one of the
 greatest seasons in NCAA history, becoming the first player ever to throw for
 at least 2,500 yards (2,570) and rush for at least 1,500 yards (1,702) in a
 single season, all while contributing 32 total touchdowns.
 
 While Robinson's junior and senior campaign failed to live up to the historic
 2010 season, he still managed to rush for more 2,400 yards in his final two
 years, accounting for a combined 52 touchdowns.
 
 Despite Robinson's storied colligate career, he saw his completion percentage
 go down in each of the past three seasons, finishing with a lackluster .533
 mark in 2012, making the undersized (5-foot-11) gunslinger's dream of calling
 signals at the pro level a long shot at best.
 
 In the midst of Michigan's relatively disappointing 8-5 season last fall, the
 squad began to prepare Robinson for his NFL future, giving him snaps at both
 running back and wide receiver. He also participated in the 2013 Senior Bowl,
 catching two passes for 21 yards, and he put forth a strong showing at the NFL
 Combine, running a 4.43 40-yard dash.
 
 Robinson, still adjusting to a life that won't have him lining up under
 center, feels as though he is getting better with each passing day.
 
 "I've been improving from the Senior Bowl to the Combine to (Michigan's) Pro
 Day," Robinson said. "I think I (am getting) better, and I will continue to do
 that."
 
 At Michigan's pro day, Robinson didn't drop a ball either as a receiver or a
 return man, which was a great sign for a player who is an unseasoned pass-
 catcher. If Robinson does what he vows to do in improving his ball skills,
 that paired with his already-established resume' of lightning-quick feet,
 unquestioned speed, strong lower body and effortless change-of-direction
 ability will make him a valuable asset to just about every team in the NFL.
 
 Robinson's best chance at making an immediate impact at the next level is in
 the return game, where his elite acceleration and field vision could be used
 to great effect, and while he's never fielded a punt or a kick in a real game,
 just like with his pass-catching, he feels with some seasoning he can be one
 of the best in the game.
 
 "Just catch and catch -- keep doing it," Robinson said of his relentless work
 ethic. "I try to catch punts every day for probably 30 minutes to an hour --
 every day until the kicker's leg gets tired."
 
 The transition from dynamic college quarterback to NFL skill player is hardly
 a new phenomenon, as several guys have crossed over to varying degrees of
 success. Eric Crouch won the 2001 Heisman Trophy for Nebraska and his elite
 athleticism allowed him to be selected in the third round by the St. Louis
 Rams, but he failed to get off the practice squad in his four-year career. Pat
 White came out of West Virginia to be a second-round selection by the Miami
 Dolphins in 2009, but he has compiled just 81 rushing yards in 13 career
 games, and has never completed a pass.
 
 While the position-changing experiment has failed for some, Robinson hopes to
 follow in the footsteps of some recent athletes who have shined in their new
 roles. Brad Smith (Missouri) has enjoyed a multi-dimensional career as a
 receiver/returner/wildcat quarterback for the New York Jets and the Buffalo
 Bills since being selected in the fourth round in 2006. Josh Cribbs (Kent
 State) is a three-time Pro Bowler as a return man for the Cleveland Browns
 with 11 career return touchdowns in eight seasons. Antwaan Randle El (Indiana)
 retired following the 2010 season after logging 370 receptions and 15
 touchdowns (nine receiving, six return) in nine seasons with the Pittsburgh
 Steelers and the Washington Redskins, and while his attempts were sparse, he
 also shined when given the opportunity to throw (22-of-27, 323 yards, six TDs,
 zero INTs).
 
 The biggest question surrounding Robinson is which group will he fall into?
 After a slow start this offseason, which began with some major questions
 following the Senior Bowl, as the draft approaches things are looking up for
 Robinson. Draft experts are predicting him to go as high as the third round,
 and the way some teams are fawning over him, it would be a surprise if he
 lasted beyond Day Two.
 
 "I think he's the ultimate hybrid Swiss-army knife type of player," Detroit
 Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "He can do so many things. You have
 to have a creative offensive mind, creative coaching staff, to figure out the
 best way to use him."
 
 Some college quarterbacks head into the NFL with a narrow mind, feeling bitter
 about switching positions and not giving their full effort or attention
 anywhere other than quarterback, but with Robinson, it appears to be quite the
 opposite, as he's excited and ready to begin the next chapter of his career.
 
 "Being able to step on a National Football League field -- I think that would
 be a blessing in itself," Robinson said. "Being drafted would be a blessing in
 itself. Right now, I'm just trying to soak everything in and make the most of
 today and tomorrow and the opportunities that I get."
 
 
 
 04/19 10:31:31 ET

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