Denard Robinson and Rich Rodriguez bonded on a football field covered with snow.
Robinson had come to Ann Arbor from south Florida for a recruiting visit on the second weekend in January 2009. The inside of Michigan Stadium looked whiter than Miss America's teeth.
"You can't tell them, 'Hey, it's the first time it has snowed here in five years,'" Rodriguez joked. "Denard came up with one of his teammates (Adrian Witty). We were at the 'Big House' and they were having the time of their lives. I said, 'Hey, let's make a snow angel.' "
Robinson never had seen snow, let alone someone flap his wings in the stuff.
"So I got on the ground and started making a snow angel," Rodriguez recalled.
Robinson said he also remembers picking up some snow, playfully chucking it at Rodriguez, "and then running pretty fast after that."
Robinson also packed snow into a plastic bag for his return flight.
"Melted on the plane," he said.
If he didn't then, Robinson now feels at home. Michigan's offense is suited perfectly to his prodigious talents, and the result was a record-shredding season.
Robinson became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,500 in a season. The previous major college record for rushing yards by a quarterback was 1,494, by Air Force's Beau Morgan. Robinson ran for 1,643 with 14 TDs and threw for 2,316 and 16 TDs to help his 7-5 Wolverines to a date with Mississippi State in the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl.
Robinson was named the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year, and he joins Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan as finalists for the Tribune Silver Football, awarded annually to the Big Ten's best player. The winner will be announced Friday.
"I thought he had a chance to have a good year," Rodriguez said. "He came out and was a phenomenal competitor."
Keep in mind: Robinson is a sophomore. And at 6 feet and 193 pounds, he got knocked out of four games: Bowling Green (knee), Iowa (shoulder), Illinois (dizziness) and Ohio State (dislocated fingers).
Rodriguez pulled him at Purdue after Robinson threw into double coverage for his second interception (and fourth turnover) of the game.
"He will keep getting better," Rodriguez said. "He's not close to hitting his ceiling yet. That's the fun part."
Robinson, most figured, would choose to play at Florida, a five-hour drive from his hometown of Deerfield Beach. Rivals.com put it at "90 percent" two days before national signing day.
"My family wanted Florida," Robinson said. "But the drive is as long as a trip to Michigan."
And Tim Tebow's decision to return for his senior season didn't help the Gators.
"Denard wanted a chance to play right away," said his high school coach, Art Taylor. "And I told him: Michigan is a great fit for your ability. They run the quarterback lead like we do. It was a match made in heaven."
Rodriguez didn't get to see Robinson play at Deerfield Beach. But he sent his offensive coordinator, Calvin Magee, and area recruiter, Tony Gibson, to watch him practice.
Said Rodriguez: "They called me right from the practice field and said: 'This guy is even better in person than on tape. He has command of the offense and there's no question he can play quarterback.
"And once I met him, you could see he was a guy people would rally around. He has a big smile and a little bounce in his step. This guy loves life, and he's fun to be around."
On the day he committed, Robinson told reporters: "'I want to be the face of Michigan."
Has he done that?
"Not yet," he said. "I haven't proved myself. I still want to make my name like Des (Howard) and Charles Woodson and Tom Brady."
Robinson proved to be perfect fit for Michigan
Sophomore QB a finalist for Tribune's Silver Football after exceeding 2,000 yards passing and 1,500 running
Michigan's Denard Robinson runs the ball against Ohio State. (Reuters)