- Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson is known for his feet, dreads, smile, arm and personality.
But this season, he has made it clear he will be known for his influence on and off the field.
"I'm taking on a leadership role, trying to be the best quarterback I can be for the team, and be the best leader I can be for the team," Robinson said. "Right now, just trying to get better at everything I can get better at."
Robinson has been praised by Michigan coach Brady Hoke, offensive coordinator Al Borges and several teammates for stepping up into that role in his final season as a Wolverine.
"He's taking on a leadership role, which is exciting for me, exciting for all of us," Borges said.
It started in the offseason with Robinson getting teammates to come in voluntarily to lift weights or run routes. Robinson began watching film early and breaking down his own game so he could learn how to make himself and the team better. That was natural for the quarterback.
But Robinson knew that in order for the Wolverines to be better, he would also have to be a vocal leader like Mike Martin had been for the team. That was the more difficult part for him.
"I wasn't an outspoken person, didn't do a lot of yelling, telling people or patting them on the butt, stuff like that. That's one of the things I need to start doing, and that's what I'm taking on this spring," Robinson said. "At practice I've been doing pretty well at it -- talking to people, telling them what they need to do."
But a big part of that has been sometimes getting rid of the smile for which Robinson is so well-known and getting on his teammates when he thinks they could play harder or better.
"Sometimes you have to get up in them, call them out, give them that encouragement," Robinson said. "You can't always be nice to them. I can't always have a smile on my face."
Last season the Wolverines made it clear they were playing for the seniors. The same will happen this year with several key players, including Robinson, in their final year.
Senior wide receiver Roy Roundtree said he has seen Robinson, who Roundtree has called "shy," maturing into the role as team leader. The extra time Robinson put in during the offseason is showing in Robinson's game -- where Roundtree is expected to catch more passes -- but also in his personality.
"He has been outgoing this year," Roundtree said. "Being a quarterback, that's what it takes because everyone's looking up to the quarterback. … We take real impact in being a senior and taking leadership, just like the Team 132 seniors did. We're just trying to accomplish something better."
Denard Robinson has been known for his infectious trademark smile. But as a senior leader, the quarterback has smiled less in an attempt to rally his team.