Worth the Weight? M-Rob Feature

After moving from position to position throughout his Penn State career, Michael Robinson is finally spending all of his time at quarterback this spring. In an effort to become the most dangerous passer he can be, the senior has slimmed down to 214 pounds. But will the light approach lead to more success for Robinson and the Nittany Lions?

One night this past off-season, Alan Zemaitis and Michael Robinson were sitting around their apartment, watching Michael Vick run through another NFL defense.

Knowing Robinson grew up in Virginia idolizing Vick, Zemaitis looked at his best friend and told him, "that could be you."

With one exception.

Vick is so fast and elusive that he never seems to get hit hard — unlike Robinson, who initiates the collisions.

"If you see films of a couple years ago, [Robinson] is trying to run over people," Zemaitis said.

Zemaitis noticed something else: Robinson was playing at nearly 240 pounds, or 25 more than Vick.

"When I first met him," Zemaitis said, "I joked that he looked like a little fat boy."

Or at least one another couple of cheeseburgers could turn into a linebacker or fullback.

Zemaitis told Robinson to envision how quick he'd be if he dropped 15 pounds. Robinson, eager to cram an entire career worth of highlights into one final season of eligibility, bought it.

"I watched my diet and ate healthier," Robinson said, "and the pounds just started coming off."

Robinson is down to 214, or the same weight as Vick.

"I think it will help me more to play the game the way I want to play it," he said. "I feel a whole lot faster and a whole lot quicker."

Zemaitis sees the difference.

"He's so fast right now that he's making the defense play at a different speed," he said. "It's going to help him first and also our team. Even at 240, he was almost the fastest guy on the team."

After spending his entire career juggling positions — quarterback, wideout and running back — Robinson is back at QB to stay.

"I've just been so happy to just concentrate on one position and focus on being the best quarterback and the best leader I can be," he said.

Now, instead of an offense designed to get him a certain amount of touches, he'll "get the ball on every play."

It should inject some needed play-calling flexibility.

"We can move the pocket more and have the quarterback run more," he said.

A career 44.3-percent passer (86 of 194 for 1,181 yards, 11 interceptions and six touchdowns), Robinson made a technical tweak in his release, following a suggestion from quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno, to become more accurate.

"[The adjustment] took the ball away from my head and made me follow through more," he said. "In the past, I was more off-balance when I threw."

Few have doubted Robinson's NFL potential as an athlete. Jack Ham has suggested Robinson could make a great pro safety. Robinson, though, seems intent on proving he can be like Mike (Vick, not Jordan).

"Guys like Randall Cunningham and Michael Vick could have played other positions, too," he said.

Robinson's patience has been taxed at Penn State. He either sat behind Zack Mills or was asked to play other positions for four years. Many times, he wondered if he'd be better off elsewhere. His low moment came after he was pulled in the 2003 Capital One Bowl loss to Auburn because Joe Paterno preferred Mills in a two-minute drill.

"I was upset," Robinson said. "I didn't see any hope during that spring. There were people coming at my parents about transferring before it was too late."

Robinson sought divine intervention.

"I prayed a lot and put my faith in God," he said. "I know God kept me for Penn State for a reason."

He'll find out this fall if the reason was in an envelope dated 2005.

Neil Rudel covers Penn State football for the Altoona Mirror.

ROBINSON BY THE NUMBERS

Year Passing/Rushing/Receiving

2001: Redshirt season — did not play.

2002: 10-17-119/50-263/9-44

2003: 62-138-892/107-396/10-100

2004: 14-39-170/49-172/33-485

Career: 86-194-1181/206-831/52-629

Notable: Robinson has accounted for 18 career touchdowns — nine rushing, six passing and three receiving.

Personal: He is a three-time Academic Big Ten selection with an undergraduate degree in advertising and public relations.

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