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September 3, 2014

Robinson works back into UK's good graces

Demarco Robinson had only one catch on Saturday, but it was a big one.

Big in the sense that the senior wide out took a short screen pass from Patrick Towles, stepped out of a tackle and turned it into a 79 yard gain. Bigger still that a short time ago it wasn't assured Robinson would catch another pass for Kentucky.

Reports and rumors swirled concerning Robinson's dismissal from the team at the end of last season. He missed the final two games against Georgia and Tennessee in 2013, fueling more speculation about his roster spot heading into the offseason.

But come fall camp, Robinson had earned his way back into the good graces of coaches Mark Stoops and Neal Brown.

Not only was he out of the doghouse, he was off the leash and let up on the couch, earning the start against UT-Martin.

"It felt really good," Robinson said. "I did a lot of work over this offseason just to get back right with the coaches and everything, so it felt really good to be able to get back out there and compete with my brothers."

Robinson's catch was nice, but it wasn't what caught his coaches' eyes. His effort earned praise from his coaches.

"He played super hard," Brown said. "I think Coach Stoops talked about it [Monday]. He played really, really hard.

"We targeted him seven times. He maybe had a chance to catch one other ball, but just bad things happened, things that weren't under his control. We made a mistake on protection one time. They covered him one time. But we tried to get him the ball seven times, and he caught one ball. The one ball he caught, he made a huge play on it, as good as we've made after the catch around here since I've been here. But I was pleased. I thought he played really hard. That's the thing: he played unselfish and really hard."

Receivers coach Tommy Mainord said Robinson showed why they want the ball in his hands.

"Of course he got the one and you can see why we're trying to get him the ball," Mainord said. "He was really explosive. He's gotten stronger and you can really tell he's ready to go, so we're trying to get that ball to him as much as we can and we'll try to again this week. But away from the ball, he was really fighting, trying to get extra yards for everybody else. He was unselfish. It was good to see."

Making things happen even when he's not making catches is an area of focus for Robinson. Blocking downfield is just as important as big plays.

"I got to put a lot of effort into it, because I don't think anybody realizes how much emphasis they put on that. They don't care how many plays you make. If you don't make any plays when you don't have the ball, they won't play you. So there's a lot of emphasis on that, just being a team player."

Mainord said Robinson has turned what could have been a cautionary tale into an example to follow.

"He's a great example, not just to younger kids but to everybody in life. He's not a quitter on any aspect of his life. He's had every reason to do that and he didn't, so now he's reaping the benefits."

Honing his "never quit" mentality was something Robinson had to do to work his way back from suspension. The most important part, though, was learning from his self-inflicted setback.

"It's just like a process. I made a mistake. It's just a process, and I can use it as a testimony for all the young kids, what not to do," he said. "Even for the older guys, everybody is going to make some mistakes but it's just about fixing it and what you do after the fact."

Robinson knows this is his last chance to make an impression in a Wildcat uniform. In his mind, the program has potential -- that things are changing for UK football.

He's just glad it isn't changing without him.

"I just want to be great," he said. "We're trying to change the game at Kentucky. It's not just a slogan, we're really trying to. Whatever I can do to do that, whether it's blocking, whether I get no catches. As long as we just do good every play, every game, I'll be happy."



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