When talking heads call football "a game of inches," Demarco Robinson can only nod.
That simple measurement became the difference between the senior wide receiver wearing his Kentucky gear on the field this fall and lounging on his couch in Georgia.
After being suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules the final two games of last season, Robinson said he was dangerously close to being dismissed from the program.
Just how close?
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He raised his right hand to show the thinnest of gaps between his index finger and thumb.
"It was basically just do or die," Robinson said. "I lost a lot of people's trust."
He met with his head coach and athletic director in January. "They just let me know: No more mess-ups."
Robinson has tried to do everything he's been asked to do since then. He's tried to do more than he's been asked to do.
"Once you get to the lowest level, you know you've got to do something to change," he said. "You know you can't keep doing the same thing you've been doing."
Robinson has come a long way, head coach Mark Stoops said.
"He's really emerged as a good leader," Stoops said. " If you'd asked him that a semester ago, he was down on himself and maybe not doing things perfectly, but he's really turned a corner."
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown said Robinson, who has started all three Kentucky games this season, is one of two good examples on the team of players who grew up.
He points to starting quarterback Patrick Towles, who sought outside help to improve his throwing, footwork and decision-making.
And then Brown points to Robinson, who had to improve his decision-making in a different way.
"You've got Demarco Robinson, who wasn't living right off the field, who looked himself in the mirror and made a decision on what was important in his life and changed his life," Brown said.
Robinson and UK coaches would not detail the reason for the player's suspension. But his troubles became public in January when he was arrested in Lexington and charged with disorderly conduct, violation of a noise ordinance and resisting arrest. Those charges were later dismissed.
With so many young players in his wide receivers group, position coach Tommy Mainord is happy to have someone like Robinson to illustrate his messages.
"What a great example he is, not just for teammates but for anybody that's paying attention, just a great turnaround he's made," Mainord said. "Just really proud of the way he's been humble and the way he's reacted."
When Robinson sees a teammate making bad decisions, he speaks up because he's been there.
"I've got a good testimony — a lot of stories to tell, to tell people what to do, what not to do — how to go about doing what you're going to do," Robinson said. "So, yeah, I've got a lot to tell young people."
And the wide receiver has found that cleaning up his life has helped clean up his game.
"Once you get your problems off the field good, then you get to focus a lot more on football," he said.
He had seven catches for 146 yards, including a 79-yarder, in the season-opening win over Tennessee-Martin. That long play was more than double his previous career long of 35 in 2012.
Just three games into this season, he's 67 yards from matching his yardage total from all of last season.
"We talked about a couple of weeks ago having his best game, and he had another great one," Mainord said. "He's putting them together now.
"Sometimes the statistics don't show exactly how well he's doing things."
No, Robinson doesn't have the yardage or touchdown totals of other receivers, but he does the little things right, even when the ball's not in his hands, Mainord said.
That makes the 5-foot-10, 158-pound senior — who has 60 career catches for 673 yards and two touchdowns, and 37 career punt returns for 303 yards — an even better example for a young group of wide receivers.
"Just playing fast, knowing exactly what to do, where to line up, being as physical as absolutely possible, fighting," Mainord said. "Just a ton of fight in what he's doing."
And even though he's limited by his size, Robinson has made a strong showing.
"Sometimes he loses the head-to-head battle, being physical, but it's not for lack of trying," Mainord said. "And he'll get back in there and stick his nose back in there again."
These days, Robinson sticks his nose in Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's office every chance he gets, too.
"I try to make sure I go in there for good things, just talking to him, thanking him for everything, letting him know he made a difference in my life," Robinson said. "At the end of the day, it's going to be more than football. It's life lessons that I learned from them."