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The Lessons of Youth Football Helped Denard Robinson On and Off the Field

Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.

Denard Robinson's love of football began when he watched his older brothers play as a kid. 

"I've always loved football," Robinson said. "My older brothers played and I couldn’t wait to be able to play. I wanted to be a part of that. I tried to be like them."

Robinson began playing football when he was five years old in his hometown of Deerfield Beach, Florida.

"I learned a lot playing youth football," he said. "You have to be accountable. You have to be committed to the game. And you always have to put the team ahead of yourself. And all of those things don’t just help you in football, but they help you in life."

Robinson said his youth coaches also helped him handle adversity. 

"Going back to youth football, my coaches always prepared me for the adverse times and how to react to it," he said. "Adversity doesn’t just hit you in football, it hits you in life, too. So you have to learn how to get back up and keep battling, to deal with it and bounce back from it. I learned that early on playing youth football."

Form his youth days Robinson was a standout. As a quarterback at Deerfield Beach High School, he entertained scholarship offers from several of the top Florida schools. But when he visited Michigan and saw the Big House, he made his decision.

"Michigan offered me and a teammate a chance to go up there, and there was nothing like it," Robinson said. "I didn’t feel that vibe anywhere else I went."

As a sophomore for the Wolverines, Robinson set a Big 10 record with 4,272 total yards (2,570 passing, 1,702 rushing). He also became the first player in NCAA history to account for over 1,700 passing and rushing yards in the same season.

The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Robinson in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He played four years for the Jaguars, then became a part of the team's coaching staff in 2019 as quality control coach. He moved to the team's personnel department in 2021 as a scout.

Now, Robinson is back in Ann Arbor. This past year, he went back to Michigan to work on Jim Harbaugh's staff as the assistant director of player personnel. 

"I always wanted to stay around the game and be a part of it," Robinson said. "Football has always been special to me and I wanted to stay in the game some way. It’s a blessing to be able to stay around it at a high level."

Photo: AP/Tony Ding


  • Youth Football
  • NFL Players and Legends