For some, the official announcement came months late after a 5-7 finish this fall. But either way, it was very clear who the leaders were on and off the field on both sides of the ball as the season continued dragging on.
Monday evening, at the teams annual end of the season banquet known as the Michigan football bust, now former Michigan coach Brady Hoke took to the podium to hand out the honors.
“The players always choose the captains because they’re the ones that are in the locker room,” now former Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “They’re the ones that are in the weight room, they’re the ones that are running in the summer, they’re the ones who know their team best when you look at it from that standpoint.
“And the two guys, I’m very proud of, the two captains for the 2014 team were Devin Gardner and Jake Ryan.”
Michigan utilized a different set of captains for every game during the 2014 season, part of a theory released at the beginning of the season by Hoke.
The idea was, at season’s end, the team would vote on the permanent captains because of something Hoke saw throughout the off-season.
“We voted on captains after our last football game,” Hoke said. “Part of that was, sometimes there’s entitlement that comes into programs and I felt there was too much entitlement from the year before.
“Making guys earn it every single day was vitally important. To see how guys would come out and perform.”
Gardner started 11-of-12 games at quarterback for Michigan in 2014, finishing the season with a 61.5 completion percentage (174-for-283) with 10 passing touchdowns to go with 15 interceptions.
On the ground, Gardner added 258 more yards and four rushing touchdowns despite battling injury and criticism as the season wore on.
“When Tom Brady talked to us about what a great honor it is to be a captain, I really feel like what he was talking about,” Gardner said Monday. “I always looked at myself as a leader on the team and for my teammates to vote me a captain after the season, that just makes it that much more special to me and I just want to thank those guys.”
Ryan led the defense with 112 total tackles including 14 tackles for loss and two sacks to go along with one interception.
This was also Ryan’s first season playing middle linebacker after moving over from the outside spot.
“I want to thank you as well,” Ryan said. “It’s an honor being voted by your fellow teammates. I’ve learned so much from them and hopefully they’ve learned a little bit from me.”