- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Here is a full transcript of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson's speech to the Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon at McCormick Place on Friday:
"I didn't realize how tough it would be to fill Kirk Cousins shoes until I stepped into the ones he left up here from last year, but I'm going to perform in my shoes and let loose. So we'll see how this goes. I'm also going to say good luck to Andrew Maxwell because he has pretty big shoes to fill on Saturdays.
"It's an honor to speak before you today. My name is Denard Robinson and I play quarterback for the University of Michigan and some people call me Shoelace. These are the things you might already know.
"What you may not know is 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. To them I want to say thank you. I love you. What made it possible were the coaches, the teachers and everyone else who unselfishly gave of themselves so that I could have choices. My favorite artist, Lil Wayne, had to say, 'I don't say I can be different. I say I can be me and people think it is different.'
"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, when Coach Rod [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.
"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 are my brothers and I wouldn't trade them for anything and family sticks together through thick and thin.
"When Coach [Brady] Hoke came in, he didn't guarantee me anything. All I had was the opportunity to continue to play quarterback. For that, I want to say thank you, Coach.
"Another reason I didn't leave is because it is an honor to play for the Big Ten. When you all are in bowl games, I root for you. Montee Ball is a guy I root for all the time. I call him 'Wrecking Ball.' During the Rose Bowl I was calling him Wrecking Ball the whole time. I enjoyed watching him play. I think it's important because we don't owe it to ourselves. We owe it to our schools and as Big Ten players. We represent the Big Ten on the field and off the field.
It's about choices. It's OK to work hard. It's OK to be uncommon. It's up to us to use our stories, our platform, to help others.
”-- Michigan QB Denard Robinson
"As a Big Ten student-athlete, we have a platform and we have choices to make. We have choices to make a difference, the choice to make a difference and to use our platform to make a difference. Six million people attended our Big Ten games last year. The Big Ten Network is in 80 million homes. And that's just a small amount of the eyes on us every day.
"Character is who you are when no one else is watching. It's easy when you know the camera is on us to do the right thing but it may be tougher at other times. This year, because of that, I became aware of how big our platform can be. I met the President of the United States and I met LeBron James and they both knew who I was.
"I had the honor of meeting several Navy SEALs this summer and they talked about how it was an honor to watch us play. On the other end, I've been followed by the media, even when I'm just a regular student at basketball games, my every move is watched. Even when my Twitter account was hacked, front page news after being hacked, I turned it into a positive. We all should.
"My motto is: It's my goal to make somebody's day every day. With this platform, we have that opportunity, an opportunity to make a difference. Tough choices don't stop. Trust me, I'm not perfect. Just ask Coach Hoke. I drive you crazy way too often, right Coach?
"At Michigan, we talk about trust, respect, accountability and commitment. Not only accountability to our teammates but to our families, our coaches, our schools and we're accountable to each other as Big Ten players to make right choices. Represent this great conference. We're accountable to each other and to everyone watching us, particularly kids. No matter what Charles Barkley says, we're all role models.
"I was told I couldn't play college football. I was told I couldn't play college quarterback. I was told I was too short. I was told I couldn't make it at a school like Michigan. I was told many things, but my choice was not to take the easy way out. It took me to the University of Michigan and to set college football records. Yet for all the things I accomplish on the football field, none of them compares to walking across the stage at graduation from the best university in the world and be the first in my family to graduate from a four-year college.
"I mentioned earlier that I lost my brother. I promised him that one day I would provide for our family so that they wouldn't struggle anymore. I have a feeling that I'm on my way, but I'm not there yet. Like I said, 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.
"It's about choices. It's OK to work hard. It's OK to be uncommon. It's up to us to use our stories, our platform, to help others. It has been an honor to represent the University of Michigan. It's been an honor to represent the Big Ten. It's been an honor to share the field with the guys on the stage today. It's a big life, big stage, Big Ten.
"This has all been a dream for me and although it is almost over I still have a few more days to make somebody else's day and I challenge you to do the same. I wish you all the best this season and I want to say thank you for giving me the honor to speak to you today. Thank you and Go Blue!"
A maturing Denard Robinson will be addressing a major fear of his when he addresses the B1G luncheon representing the league's players.