"All your hatin is fuel to my fire – It's motivation" – T.I.
If Inkster quarterback Devin Gardner were to write a song about his summer exploits, the line above would be the chorus. Few would disagree that the last few months were chalked full of impressive performances by the four star QB. Every camp and combine he attended had pundits re-writing the scouting report on a youngster that was previously described as one-dimensional. And his latest conquest may be his most impressive.
Gardner's showing at the prestigious Elite 11 camp has given even his fiercest critics pause when discussing the limitations of his game – not because he doesn't have any -- but because he has far fewer than many initially thought. Even though some of the critiques have been accurate and constructive (like those that pointed out the need to improve his throwing mechanics), to Gardner, the nature of the criticism hasn't mattered. All of it has managed to stoke his motivational fire, and that was certainly true during the Elite 11.
"At the camp they were reading stuff out about what they thought about us," Gardner recalled. "They said I'm not geared for this and that this is not my kind of competition. I took offense to that because a quarterback is a quarterback. After that I just came out and made it a point to perform even better. I think I did pretty good. I guess everybody thought I did pretty good as well.
Part of that "everybody else" consisted of a who's who of college and pro quarterbacks.
"Last year I went and Chase Daniel was there," Gardner remembered. "(This year) he was going crazy. He said I got better at reading defenses… everything in the classroom and I got better with my mechanics. He said I looked way better. Daryl Clark, he liked me a lot. Carson Palmer… that was big… he pulled me aside and said, ‘I can tell you've been working. You've got everything together.'"
Those that make the selections for the ESPN/Under Armour All American game also to notice.
"He told me to call when I got out of practice I called him and he let me know that I got picked," said Gardner. "He said I was one of the last spots and the Elite 11 put it over the top for him."
Of course, Gardner's participation in the All American game will prevent him from participating on Inkster high's basketball team… a squad that Gardner helped make a deep playoff run last year. That, though is a price the talented youngster is willing to pay.
"I wasn't going to play anyway," he said. "I'm not going to play anymore. The hoop dream is over (laughing)."
Fortunately for the Maize & Blue, his quarterback dream is not.