Devin Gardner: Everything You Need to Know About Michigan's Star QB
Until late last season, college football followers outside of the Big Ten weren't all that familiar with Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner.
That's because he wasn't one prior to Week 8, when he re-debuted as the Wolverines' No. 1 with 234 passing yards and two touchdowns during a 35-13 throttling of Minnesota.
Gardner posted a 3-2 record as a starter, which includes a three-touchdown showing during the Wolverines' 33-28 Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina.
His win-loss record may not jump out as overly impressive, but his offensive numbers were: 1,219 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns, seven rushing touchdowns and a Big Ten-leading 161.7 efficiency rating.
And he completed just less than 60 percent of his passing attempts.
This season, he's a likely candidate for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and a potential dark-horse Heisman contender.
But there is more to Gardner.
Who He Is
Let's face it, bios probably aren't at the top of your reading list.
If they are, click here for Gardner's official bio on MGoBlue.com.
If they're not, get ready for the necessary information:
- Height: 6'4"
- Weight: 210
- High School: Inkster, Mich. (class of 2010)
- Birthday: Dec. 14, 1991
- Class: Redshirt junior
- Major: He's enrolled in the Master of Social Work program and graduated in 2012 with a degree in Afro-American and African studies.
He attended Inkster High with college teammate Cam Gordon.
He Considered Transferring
At one time, Devin Gardner wasn't sure about his future at Michigan. After losing the starting job to Denard Robinson, he thought of uprooting and starting at a new school.
In July, Gardner told MLive.com's Kyle Meinke that he grew as a person and a player while waiting for his shot to start. There were bitter moments, Gardner said, but staying the course has prepared him for his role as a leader.
"I'm ready," he told Meinke. "Let's roll."
No uncertainty here, Devin Gardner has an unwavering belief in himself and his team.
“We always have room for improvement, but this is definitely a championship-caliber football team that will win in the Big House against Ohio State,” Gardner said in June during a radio interview, with The Huge Show, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. “We don’t feel like we’re inferior to anyone in the country.”
Naturally, Gardner had his critics, particularly those of the Buckeyes' ilk. But he stood by his words, as a team leader should. He wasn't out of line by expressing a belief in his team.
He elaborated on the topic by saying the following to Michael Spath of TheWolverine.com (subscription required to view):
We're going to work hard and do our best and I do believe we're going to win the game. That's not arrogance. I am confident in my football team.
I wouldn't expect any player from any team to answer that question any differently, and if they do, they don't deserve to be on that football team, whether it's Purdue, Ohio State, Illinois or even Central Michigan. If one of their guys don't think they can beat us, they shouldn't be on that football team
Gardner has said and done the right things. His belief in himself should prompt belief from Wolverines fans.
He Loves Playing at Purdue
Because of an early-career encounter with fans, Gardner quickly found a favorite place to visit: Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind., the home of the Purdue Boilermakers.
The following is a story told in July by Gardner to Holly Anderson of Grantland.com:
• Mouths of babes. Gardner displayed keen situational awareness at a road game at Purdue early in his career:
"Me and Jeremy Gallon, neither of us were playing. We were standing on the bench, just chilling out, watching the game, and I hear 'DEVIN! DEVIN!,' you know, from the opposing crowd, and I'm like, 'Nah, I'm not turning around.' And then they go, 'GALLON! GALLON! IT'S FOR MY DAUGHTER!,' and I'm like, 'Don't turn around. Don't turn around. Promise.'
Jeremy says, 'I ain't gonna turn around.' So I walk away for a second, and then I hear, 'YOU'RE A GALLON OF…SHHHHH' and I was like"—he sighs here, shaking his head and laughing—"Gallon turned around.
"And ever since then I loved playing there, because that was hilarious. I said to Gallon, 'I TOLD YOU.' He doesn't even turn around at home games now. He kinda got scarred after that."
Michigan doesn't play Purdue this season, and Gardner didn't play during his team's 44-13 romping of the Boilers in 2012. His wild story will have to remain just that, a story.
Topping it off, Gardner also admitted giving out his phone number to people on Twitter.
But they never knew if they got the right one, he joked. Twitter is fun, especially for popular college athletes.
His Skills Are Widely Praised
A steady flow of national hype has followed Gardner since the Outback Bowl.
He's worked out with George Whitfield, a well-respected quarterback specialist, and he's caught the eye of members of just about every big-time media outlet. He's no longer a kept secret of Michigan fans.
Everyone knows about Gardner, including Fox Sports analyst Charles Davis, who said the following about Gardner during Big Ten media days in Chicago, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.
He has the charisma, he has the leadership, he has that presence, that ‘it’ factor. Watching him throw the football is pretty nice. Good footwork, good balance, the ball comes off of his hand really well, nice compact delivery. There’s nothing about him that didn’t register right when you watched him.
I could feel it from the different guys who were doing the evaluating. He would throw and throw, and as it went on the enthusiasm kept bubbling over. By the end, you almost couldn’t take it anymore. It was a lot of fun to watch.
Gardner has the tools to wow. No question there. Davis' excitement about Michigan's first-year full-timer was warranted. And with Gardner, the Wolverines are getting an athlete who is just beginning to come into his own. Imagine what he could have done with more time as the starter?
His five-game tilt has been dissected, discussed and debated for months. It's not often that less than half of a season commands so much attention, but that's the way of today's 24/7 news cycle.
Coach Brady Hoke has expressed his admiration for quite some time, stemming back to Gardner's pre-quarterback days. During Big Ten media days, Hoke talked about Gardner's maturation and ability to lead his teammates.
Gallon Is His Right-Hand Man
Jeremy Gallon and Devin Gardner are a lethal combination that works well together on the field.
Off the field, the two are great friends.
Gardner told MLive.com's Kyle Austin that he formed a bond with Gallon while riding the bench. Like Gardner, Gallon had to wait his turn to shine; they became close friends by experiencing that together.
The quarterback-receiver tandem is capable of eclipsing 1,000 yards of production this season. They put on a show during the Outback Bowl, and Gallon proved himself as a go-to receiver this past fall.
Being connected away from football only strengthens their bond when playing the game. Their relationship is reassuring and conducive for success.
He's Been Compared to Jason Campbell and RG3
Once upon a time, Jason Campbell played for Auburn, and his offensive coordinator was none other than Al Borges.
Now with Michigan, Borges coached a potent offense that allowed Campbell, a quarterback, to achieve SEC Offensive Player of the Year distinction in 2004.
These days, Campbell comes in at 6'5" and 230 pounds, an inch taller and about 20 pounds heavier than Gardner. That's prototypical size right there—size that greatly increases chances of success.
Rivals.com writer Barry Every compared Gardner's physique to Campbell's college frame.
Borges recently compared Gardner to Robert Griffin III, who enters his second year as quarterback of the Washington Redskins. Like Gardner, Griffin III is mobile, accurate and elusive.
Both comparisons work in this scenario.
He Likes to Talk a Little Junk...OK, a Lot
What fun would the game be if talking trash wasn't allowed?
As long its kept within certain boundaries, there is nothing wrong with exchanging verbal jabs with the opposition, nor is there anything wrong with doing the same with teammates.
And Gardner is pretty good at it.
“He’s a professional trash talker,” senior Thomas Gordon told Zach Helfand of the Michigan Daily. “He knows how to get to your nerves and he knows what gets you mad.
“You always got to be on your p’s and q’s.”
There Is a Slight Similarity to Tom Brady
Before being manhandled Thursday by the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady paid a visit to his old school and talked to the players of Team 134.
Brady's story is one of the most unlikely to ever unfold in sports history: Barely getting the starting job in college led to becoming one of the greatest players that the NFL had ever seen.
Unlike Gardner, Brady didn't enter college as a highly rated recruit. However, both know what it's like to wait.
"In my 4th/5th yr, I was named team captain. To this day, is the single greatest achievement I've ever had as a football player." -Tom Brady— Michigan Football (@umichfootball) August 22, 2013
Gardner enters his fourth year at Michigan. While he's not a captain this season, it's a safe bet to say that he'll be one next year, if he returns. Could he have a two-year career like Brady had? It's possible. And so is a career in the NFL.