Michigan coaches were among the first to make Inkster (Mich.) standout quarterback Devin Gardner (6-4, Rivals.com No. 1 quarterback prospect) a priority, even before he shot up the rankings. That loyalty paid off when other schools started approaching Gardner following his U-M commitment.
Florida, for one, picked it up dramatically this fall following Gardner's excellent showing at the Elite 11 quarterback camp. Gardner listened, but eventually decided there's no place like home.
"I feel great," Gardner told Detroit's WDFN radio. "I felt there was no other place I'd feel as comfortable as I am now ... It was the only school I could think of.
"When I go up there, it's like a family atmosphere. Some schools, they seem kind of fake, if you will, but [Michigan], I felt like they were real.
"The big thing for me was I was their first choice. They wanted me. They offered other guys, but they expressed to me that I was their top guy. They let me know, and that was the biggest factor."
Some expect big things from Gardner immediately in his career, predicting he'll give Tate Forcier a battle for the starting job. Gardner insisted he embraces the pressure.
"It feels good. It's a tremendous amount of pressure, but there are some people that don't think I'm all that and some people that think I'm not that good, actually," he said. "That just keeps the hunger in my heart, ready to prove everybody wrong.
"I thought everybody knew [I could play before the Elite 11]. I read a lot of people were just in doubt. I had 48 touchdowns as a junior, so I didn't know how there could be any doubt. They said I couldn't throw the ball, so I went and did exactly what they said I couldn't do. I really got upset when I got in but they said,'this isn't his scene, these aren't the types of things he likes to do.' I'm a quarterback, so obviously I have to like to pass the ball."
Gardner used it as motivation and continues to, working each day in preparation for his Michigan career. He makes no secret of the fact that he expects to be in the race to start.
"Of course I can see myself doing that, because I'm a hard worker. My coaches have instilled a great deal of that in me," said Gardner. "I know I'll have to come back to [Inkster] Coach [Greg] Carter and hear him say, 'why are you not starting?' I don't want to have do to that. That makes me want to be the starting quarterback even more.
"Tate Forcier is a great player, a tough player, and a funny guy. He's a real cool guy and everything. I think he's going to be great competition next year."
But Gardner has battled and won quarterback competitions before, and he's anxious to prove himself again. Staying close to home was one of the biggest factors in his decision … "I didn't want to have someone spend 300 or 400 dollars to get a plane ticket to come see me play," he said … and he's as solid as ever with U-M.
"At first it was like, 'maybe they have a good thing,'" he said of other schools' interest. "So I listened to what they had to say. But I thought it over and talked to my mom. I said, 'where were you when I wasn't a top ranked player? Where were you when Michigan was right here and knew what I could do?' That's how I think about it and why I stick with Michigan."