MOBILE, Ala. – Denard Robinson arrived here this week for the Senior Bowl with perhaps more to prove than any other player.
While all of his fellow senior all stars adjust to learning a new offense for the first time since arriving at their respective schools, Robinson faces that same challenge but with an even more difficult twist.
Like Antwaan Randle-El and Randall Cobb before him, Robinson is looking to make the transition from dynamic running college quarterback to accomplished, multi-purpose threat in the NFL.
“You have just got to pick it up and try to learn it,” Robinson said “It’s still football. I’ll do anything they ask me to do.”
Through the years, plenty of college quarterbacks have attempted to make the transition to receiver or running back or even safety in the NFL, each with varying degrees of success.
For every Randle-El, Cobb or Brad Smith, there have been plenty of examples of players who not only didn’t succeed in moving positions but also never wanted to in the first place.
Rams fans might remember former Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who never embraced the opportunity in the first place and was out of the league sooner than later.
For his part, Robinson seems more than happy to do anything NFL coaches ask of him.
“I don’t live my life with any regrets,” Robinson said. “I have this opportunity and I am going to make the most of it. I have to keep working hard. I am going to work my butt off. I’m a competitor, I want to be the best so I am going to train like the best.”
Cobb is probably the best current example of a player making the switch after spending the early part of his college career as a quarterback at Kentucky. Cobb had a breakout season in 2012 playing receiver and working as a return specialist for Green Bay.
Robinson said he has watched the transformation of Cobb as an example even if he is well behind Cobb’s curve.
“Yes and you can tell he’s one of the successful guys right now,” Robinson said. “He has had a lot of success doing this. I haven’t talked to any of them, I just watch them.”
Perhaps a more appropriate comparison for Robinson is Smith or Randle-El, players who spent most of their careers at quarterback before changing positions.
In Robinson’s case, he had a little bit of a leg up in learning receiver after he suffered an ulnar nerve injury in Michigan’s game against Nebraska. Suddenly, the FBS record holder for rushing yards in a career by a quarterback (4,995) was no longer able to throw.
Robinson moved to receiver and has been doing nothing but working on running routes ever since even though he could get looks at running back, returner and possibly even cornerback.
This week, Robinson is still dealing with his nerve injury and that has kept him from participating in contact drills the first two days of practice. He’s hoping to be cleared soon and play in Saturday’s game.
Robinson is also working on catching kicks and punts, an area he struggled mightily with in the first two days. But first and foremost, he’s hoping to prove himself as a receiver.
“I have worked on route running non stop, a lot of routes,” Robinson said. “I will keep working on it as much as I can.”
BARNER’S MISSION: Oregon running back Kenjon Barner rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012 but mostly flew under the radar of his flashier teammates in the Ducks’ Fiesta Bowl winning season.
Barner’s video game numbers didn’t even yield him an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony but now he’s out to prove that he’s the best of a fairly even running back lot in this year’s draft.
For Barner, that means putting on a strong performance this week at the Senior Bowl but also proving himself to be a top-notch human being in his interviews with teams.
“You definitely want to separate yourself, not only as a running back but in life,” Barner said. “You never want to be grouped together with anyone, you want to be in your own lane. So I’m taking that same mindset into this game. I definitely want to separate myself from the crowd. I’m not a crowd follower. I like to set my own path and build my own way.”
Barner finds himself lumped in a group with other talented backs in this year’s class but none have separated from the pack with the possible exception of Alabama’s Eddie Lacy.
Here, other backs like UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and Florida’s Mike Gillislee are competing with Barner.
“Look who is here,” Barner said. “Look around. You’ve got the best of the best here. The tradition of this game, the history of this game and then look at what they brought in this year, this is the best of the best. So if you want to be considered one of the best in college, you have to come compete against the best to take that right. So what better way to do it than to come here and prove it?”
MISSING IN ACTION: Tuesday’s practice saw a few players either not in attendance or not practicing.
Oregon offensive tackle Kyle Long, brother of Chris, was nowhere to be found during the practice. No word on his whereabouts. Same for Ohio State defensive tackle John Simon.
Linebackers Arthur Brown (Kansas State) and Trevardo Williams (Connecticut) also did not participate in practice.
For the South team, Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins did not practice with an apparent injury.
Also, as expected Alabama OT D.J. Fluker did not participate and he departed Mobile because of an injury suffered while training.
FORMER RAMS IN ATTENDANCE: Three former Rams attended Tuesday’s practices, each with new gigs.
Former cornerback Todd Lyght, he of the Super Bowl XXXIV champions, has been hired as part of Chip Kelly’s staff with the Eagles. His position has not been announced yet as Kelly waits to announces his whole staff at one time.
Former wideout/safety Mike Furrey is here. He’s now the head coach at Kentucky Christian University.
Another former cornerback, Travis Fisher, has also been spotted down here.