by Joash Brunet • photo by Agnes Lopez • From the September 2013 issue of Jacksonville Magazine
After the Jaguars selected Denard Robinson in the fifth round of this year’s NFL draft, general manager Dave Caldwell talked about the “juice” Robinson brings on and off the field. That same “juice” made the Deerfield Beach, Florida native an electrifying quarterback for the University of Michigan. In person, Robinson, who turns 23 later this month, is all smiles, dreadlocks and positive energy. It’s easy to understand why the national media and his teammates gravitate toward him. He’s officially listed as an “offensive weapon” on the Jags roster, which means #16 could line up as a runner, receiver, or even a passer. If he can succeed in just one of those roles, Robinson has the charisma and ankle-breaking moves to become a star in the NFL.
Here’s some of what we learned during an interview at EverBank Field in August.
• Robinson has one sister and five brothers, one of whom is a Jaguars season ticket holder. “It’s fun to come back home to family in the Sunshine State,” he says.
• Growing up in a tough section of Deerfield Beach, Robinson says it was “easy to do the wrong thing.” His parents managed to keep him out of trouble and on a path to college. “My dad had me inside the house before the street lights came on.”
• “I have a quote from one of my favorite rappers, Lil Wayne, that I like to use,” says Robinson as he talks about what others can learn from his story. “He says, ‘I don’t say I can be different. I say I can be me and people think it is different.’ That’s the lesson I’ve learned. Don’t be afraid to be different.”
• Robinson can outrun most defenders, but he was stonewalled by President Obama’s Secret Service detail when it arrived at the University of Michigan in advance of a presidential visit last year. “We had no idea who these guys in suits were. We asked them what they were doing, and they were like, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’ll find out later.’” The President later mentioned Robinson by name in his speech.
• He says pasta is his favorite food. As for local restaurants, he likes High Tide Burrito Co. He also admits, “I live over by St. Johns Town Center, and it’s always good to be near a Chick-fil-A.”
• Robinson got the nickname “Shoelace” because “I was never good at tying my shoes when I was younger,” he says. “One of my first coaches couldn’t get me to keep them tied, so he just said to leave them untied. The rest is history.”
• A South Florida product, Robinson had to learn some tough lessons about cold weather when he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan. “When I went up there, I only had my high school letterman jacket. That was a mistake.”
• He has a simple explanation as to why he is all smiles, all the time. “Life is too short to live angry, and hey, I get to play football for a living!”