It was everything a college football player dreams of. Playing under lights, in a stadium steeped in the history and tradition of college football. A national television audience watching a game between two programs with national title aspirations.
Late in the fourth quarter, his team fighting to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the player is an integral part of the action.
But it wasn't exactly what Devin Gardner had in mind as a top recruit when he came to play for the Michigan Wolverines.
Last season, instead of being under center, he found himself at wide receiver hoping for the ball to be thrown his way as the Wolverines lost to Notre Dame 13-6 in South Bend.
Later in the season, an injury to starting quarterback Denard Robinson provided Gardner a chance to return under center.
Starting on the road at Minnesota, Gardner sparked the Wolverines to a 35-13 victory.
But even before returning to the quarterback position, Gardner had shown his moxie.
During Wolverine media day, Gardner reflected on his journey from highly touted prospect, to backup quarterback, to wide receiver, and finally the unquestioned starting quarterback for the Michigan Wolverines heading into this season.
His time at wide receiver showed his teammates another side of his character.
"I had the opportunity to mix it up with DBs, even linebackers. My teammates view me as a much tougher person, they've seen me pancake guys from great teams."
And his expectations for this season?
"We expect to win every game.”
Wolverine fans are giddy with anticipation with the news that head coach Brady Hoke is bringing power football back to Ann Arbor. Many of these fans expect the Wolverines to challenge for the Big Ten Title on the way to a triumphant return to the Rose Bowl. And if the Wolverines can run the table and make the the national title game, well, that's played in Pasadena too.
But coach Brady Hoke is quick to remind everyone that Gardner was 3-2 last season as a starting quarterback.
The Wolverines were in position to beat Ohio State and South Carolina. But they came up short.
Of course, they also beat Northwestern after an improbable long pass play with 18 seconds left that allowed them to tie the game with a field goal and eventually win in OT.
Despite a newly formulated offensive line, questions at running back and wide receiver, and a new emphasis on power football, Gardner exudes a quiet confidence.
"I'm blessed...I’ve helped the team any way I can, and now it’s my opportunity to lead...It’s surreal."
This team will go as far as Devin Gardner can take it this season. And he seems prepared to take them a long way.
Perhaps all the way to Pasadena.
All quotes collected by author unless otherwise noted.