Like Robinson before him, Gardner responds to interception criticism

Patrick Barron/Daily
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner has critics, but said “when you play as bad as I’ve played, you kind of earned that.” Buy this photo

By Liz Vukelich, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 2, 2013

Devin Gardner likes to call himself a “student of the game.” He watches extra film. He takes time to learn the playbook. He wants to make sure there are no surprises.

But his studies extend beyond the football field, too. Over the past few weeks, Gardner has come back to something he learned in a psychology class.

“You need 10,000 hours to get out of a habit,” Gardner said. “When you get into the heat of the moment, you can revert back to the old ways of doing things.”

Did Gardner put in the full 10,000 hours necessary over the past two weeks to kick his turnover tendency? Not quite. Nevertheless, he feels confident saying that his eight turnovers over the course of four games are more of the anomaly than the rule.

Whether or not that is the case once Big Ten play starts this weekend remains to be seen. But even if Gardner hasn’t been able to completely solve the interception problem, at least he’s getting better at brushing it off afterward.

By now, the Wolverines have a routine for when interceptions happen: fifth-year senior wide receiver Jeremy Gallon simply pats Gardner on the helmet, and the offensive line tries to provide as many encouraging words as they can.

Gardner is all too aware of his errors, and though he’ll always exchange a few words with Hoke when he comes off the field, he prefers to just “chill out and think about what happened.”

Gardner may be learning how to cope with major criticism for the first time in his career, but Hoke’s been through this before — former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson threw 12 interceptions during his senior season, and often came under a storm of criticism for his difficulties throwing the ball.

Before Gardner was the one throwing the picks, he was the one on the sidelines consoling Robinson as he came off the field. Now Gardner’s the one answering for his actions.

Gardner hasn’t reached out to Robinson for advice on how to handle the criticism — according to Gardner, he doesn’t want to bother Robinson, who is busy in his current role as a wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But Gardner learned a lot from his predecessor, who was known for his quieter demeanor and actions-instead-of-words attitude.

“That was beneficial for me because I could see how much it couldn’t bother (Robinson),” Gardner said. “I’ve probably thought about the way he handled things in general as the quarterback. He was an example of how to behave and how you should act.”

The Wolverines are quick to defend Gardner from criticism, and the coaches are too — as Hoke continuously reminds the media, the only noise he wants his players to listen to is the kind that comes from their teammates and coaches.

Even so, Gardner smiled when he acknowledged that he does deserve some of the backlash that’s come his way in recent weeks.

“When you play as bad as I’ve played, you’ve kind of earned that,” Gardner said. “I just can’t wait to play on Saturday.”