Rich Rodriguez on Denard Robinson: "You have to think he's been one of the most exciting players in the history of that program." (John T. Greilick / Detroit News)
Rich Rodriguez knew from the start that Denard Robinson would be a special player.
Rodriguez, who coached at Michigan from 2008-10 and recruited Robinsonto play for the Wolverines as a dual-threat quarterback, is at Arizona now as the head coach, but he still thinks the world of his former quarterback.
Robinson has been a three-year starter at Michigan but has missed the last two and a half games with an injury to the ulnar nerve in his right arm. He and the rest of the seniors will make their final appearance of their careers at Michigan Stadium on Saturday when the Wolverines face Iowa.
It is unclear whether Robinson will be able to play.
There's no denying, though, he has been one of the most dynamic players in the program. Robinson set the Michigan record for career offensive yards (10,425) and was the Big Ten's offensive player of the year in 2010.
"He's been so dangerous as a football player that everybody probably holds their breath every time he touches the ball," Rodriguez said Tuesday. "You have to think he's been one of the most exciting players in the history of that program."
Rodriguez said it was essentially love at first sight with Robinson when his staff went to see him in person at Deerfield Beach High in south Florida.
"We had a pretty good idea, but I don't think you ever know for sure until you get him," Rodriguez said. "I remember we really liked his film and his high school coach raved about him. But then when our coaches went down to watch him practice, I remember them calling me and saying, 'This guy's got it.' I said, 'What do you mean?' They said, 'He can throw, he can run.'
"He has kind of an infectious personality, he has the leadership, he has all those other qualities that sometimes you have to see in person to recognize. I remember when (the coaches) called, they said, 'This is going to be a guy we think we can build an offense around,' and certainly he's had a great career."
Rodriguez said the intangibles have set Robinson apart.
"For our time there (at Michigan), he was, as a sophomore, the offensive player of the year in the league, and he was still learning the system," Rodriguez said. "He's a great young man to coach, he has a great smile and everybody truly respected him, because he was the same way on and off the field. (Success) didn't really change him. That's the thing you really appreciated.
"He's certainly been one of the most dominant college football players during his career. It looks like he's done equally well on and off the field his whole time there."
Rodriguez said he and Robinson kept in touch last year while Rodriguez was out of coaching and working in television. Now that he's at Arizona, he hasn't had much time to keep the communication going.
"We kept in touch — and kept in touch with a couple of the other guys," Rodriguez said. "I still have some friends up there that keep me in touch with how Denard and some of those guys are doing.
"I know he's been a little banged up now, but his career has been phenomenal, and I'm really, really proud of him."