By: Denard Robinson
My name is Denard Robinson. I played quarterback for the University of Michigan and running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some people call me Shoelace.
These are the things you might already know about me.
A few years ago – helmet and pads replaced with a suite and tie — I was given the opportunity to share my story at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago. With the annual Big Ten event back in Chicago this week, I thought there was no better time than to share my story with those of you who weren’t in the room of that day. Hopefully, it inspires at least one or two of people reading this that no matter the obstacles, no matter the hardships — you can overcome them and achieve your goals if you choose to be uncommon.
What you may not know about me is that I grew up in Deerfield Beach, Fla., with six brothers and one sister.
What you may not know is I lost a brother when I was 10 years old and that I pray to him every day to give me strength. No matter how hot it is outside, I always seem to get a cool breeze — and I like to think it comes from him.
What you may not know is I was so self-conscious about the area I grew up in that I used to hold recruiting visits at my grandparents’ house.
What you may not know is that I was not even the best athlete in my neighborhood, but I was one of the ones who made it out.
The reason I tell you this is because it wasn’t easy where I came from. What made it possible were my two parents who had nothing and gave everything. What made it possible were the coaches, the teachers and everyone else who unselfishly gave of themselves so that I could have choices.
Where I came from, it was easy to do the wrong thing, quit school, do drugs, live the street life. It’s tough to do the right things. You may not know my freshman year of high school I was ineligible to play spring football because of my grades. It would have been easy for me to give up and fall into what all the other students were doing. But it was my choice to be different. To be uncommon.
Like I did my sophomore year at Michigan, when Coach Rich Rodriguez was let go. He was the coach that brought me to the University of Michigan and it was the best decision of my life. Everyone thought I was going to leave and go to a school closer to home. Go to a school with a familiar offense. But those who questioned me, didn’t know me.
I stayed and faced the challenge head on. Why? First, because I bleed blue! Second, because it’s an honor to play for the University of Michigan, the most storied program in college football. Third, because those teammates were my brothers and I wouldn’t have traded them for anything. Family sticks together through thick and thin.
At Michigan, we always talked about trust, respect, accountability and commitment. Not only accountability to our teammates but to our families, our coaches and our schools. We’re accountable to each other and to everyone watching us, particularly kids. No matter what Charles Barkley says, we’re all role models.
Growing up, I was so self-conscious of where I came from, but today I realized I’m blessed and I embrace it. Where I came from helped me become who I am today. And it shows it doesn’t matter where you come from, anything is possible. That is the message I want to carry over to the new generation. As a professional athlete, I have been given a platform to reach millions. The Shoelace Foundation, which helps give kids the resources needed to achieve there goals, is the mouthpiece for my message.
My family sacrificed so much so that I could pursue my dreams. Now, I want to be a role model for those looking to me for guidance and belief.
My goal is to make someone’s day every day. I hope it is yours, too.
For more information on The Shoelace Foundation or to contribute to the organization please visit TheShoelaceFoundation.org.