Devin Gardner's athleticism is what helped him become rated one of the nation's top high school quarterbacks in 2010. But for three years, the once-stud Gardner has played second fiddle at quarterback to a player just as athletic: Denard Robinson.
And now, to make the situation even more unique, Gardner has been taking snaps at wide receiver with the Michigan football team, catching passes from the player he once stood behind on the depth chart.
"I'm just doing whatever it takes to help the team win," Gardner said. "If that's where the coaches feel I can help at here and there, I'll do it."
The decision, which Gardner describes as a mutual agreement among himself, Michigan football coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges, was made early last spring. Between Gardner's athleticism and the lack of depth at the receiver position, the transition to playing two positions seemed obvious. The early planning allowed Gardner time to begin practicing with the receivers during spring ball.
Though he has played mainly quarterback his entire life and is still listed as so on the team's roster, Gardner did mention that during camps and combines in high school he'd occasionally sneak over to other position groups, including receivers, when he got bored being a signal-caller.
But this isn't a move made out of boredom, it's a move that has been made judiciously, to better a team that will lack depth at wide receiver after losing Junior Hemingway to graduation.
"I like playing football so I'll play any position," Gardner said. "If I had to play linebacker, I'd play it."
Gardner at linebacker seems like a long shot, but his definite role as to how many snaps at each position or whether he'll end up specializing in one or the other hasn't been decided yet by the Michigan coaching staff.
Wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski said they're still allowing Gardner to evolve and grow in both roles as they continue to make decisions for the season.
"We're going to let him get comfortable at both positions," Hecklinski said. "And then, as we get closer to game time, Coach Borges and Coach Hoke will sit down and figure out what his role will be."
The situation is unique for Hecklinski, who admits he has never coached a player with an athletic caliber up to that of Gardner's. However, Hoke has had players contribute at both positions, but with the team in the early stages of planning for Alabama, no definitive path has been chosen for Gardner.
"Devin can do whatever he wants to do on the football field," Hecklinski said. "I know [Borges] loves to have him in the quarterback room and I love him and my guys love having him in my room. I think as we progress through camp his role will be figured out, but right now he’s doing both."