Gardner, recipient of hate mail, says message received and ignored

Adam Glanzman/Daily
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By Matt Slovin, Managing Editor
Published November 13, 2013

As the Michigan football team’s season has slowly deteriorated, technology has allowed fans to interact with Devin Gardner at a moment’s notice.

And as the losses pile up, the redshirt junior quarterback presumably scrolls through his Twitter mentions after a game and sees hateful messages rolling in.

“When you play well, everybody loves you,” Gardner said. “When you don’t — I don’t want to say they hate you — but I get a lot of hate mail. It comes with the territory.”

Wednesday night on his radio show, Michigan coach Brady Hoke called the comments directed at Gardner “classless.”

Hoke said Wednesday that the coaching staff tells players during the recruiting process that playing for the Wolverines means dealing with the backlash when things aren’t going their way. If players are unsure if they can filter out the outside noise, Hoke tells them there are plenty of other schools out there that might be a better fit.

“No question,” Hoke said. “We’re very honest with them. We’re demanding of them academically, socially and from the football aspect. How they represent their name is really important and how they represent the block ‘M.’ ”

Especially to the freshmen, reading negative comments on social media and hearing the boos that rained down on the team during last Saturday’s 17-13 loss to Nebraska can be particularly impactful.

“This is all new, playing in front of 110,000,” Hoke said. “This is a whole different life in college, not having mom’s meals or grandma’s meals or whoever it may be. There’s a big adjustment.”

The younger players will tell Gardner that they’d like to reply to the Twitter users bashing them, who Gardner called “passionate,” but he knows that wouldn’t help the situation.

So he tries to set the example, asking them to come to him when they feel like responding. Gardner echoed a common sentiment this week, saying the only people that matter are the ones in the locker room.

“I try my best to explain that to the young guys so they don’t get frustrated,” Gardner said. “And I think they understand now that ‘wow, it is just about us.’ No matter what anybody else says, good or bad, it’s about us. They’ll love you and they’ll hate you.”

Gardner’s e-mail is unlisted in the University’s directory, which he said helps to keep the messages from coming to his inbox, too. Gardner added that he doesn’t want to get into a conversation via Twitter about his play but that his reaction when he reads some of the messages is, “Man, it sucks you feel that way.”

At halftime of the Nebraska loss, fifth-year senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan addressed the team, saying that even though some fans have turned on the team by booing, they need to continue playing for the 11 players on the field. Those are the voice that matter, Hoke said.

Filtering out the criticism will be important to finishing strong — the 10-win plateau is still within reach, and though that was never the original goal, Gardner said it’s still a mark of a strong season.

“You’ve got to have broad shoulders,” Hoke said. “Any time you’re in competition, you’re going to have critics out there. And 99 percent of those critics, they don’t know. They don’t know how these guys work, starting in January after every season. The early workouts, the grind we put them through.”