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October 04, 2013 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-10-04
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i

0. '00 0p

4t Gard]r's
111a nill1

ball field is a power grid full
of generators, a mechanic's
garage and a strip club.
But for a while, the alma
mater of current Michi-
gan football players Devin
Gardner and Cam Gor-
don was a factory for kids
who needed second and
third chances, like Gard-
ner. It was where Greg
Carter - the athletic direc-
tor and football coach -
had a mural on his wall
of all the players he sent
to college, most of whom
wouldn't have had a fight-
ing chance without Inkster.
Most importantly, it was
the pride of a community
that needed something to
believe in.
Now, its doors are glued
shut and the handprints are
on the wrong side of the
windows.
"It's kind of odd saying
this with me being on the
team, but..." On the phone,
Nathan Lindsey's voice
trails off before he starts
laughing. Lindsey, along
with his brother Daniel,
played alongside Gardner
and Gordon at Inkster but
now live in Kansas, playing
for Fort Hayes State Uni-
versity.
"Man, it really was like
Devin and then the Ink-
ster Vikings," he said. "It
was. There's no other
way to put it. If
Devin wasn't
playing, the
chances
of us
going
to a

state championship that
year would have been so
slim. Especially going to a
state championship. ... Our
team was good, but Devin
was a very, very key part to
that. He took us to that next
level."
bevin and the Vikings
played every game of their
season on the road in 2009,
his senior year. Thirteen
in all. Trying to match his
quarterback's talent, Carter
scheduled games anywhere
from Muskegon, Mich., to
Cleveland.
Entering the last week
of the regular season, the
Vikings were 4-3 and had
to win their last game to
make the Michigan~ state
playoffs.
All Inkster had to do was
win in one of the toughest
road environments in all of
high-school football: Steu-
benville, Ohio,- which was
riding a 68-game winning
streak.
Steubenville is like no
place you've ever been. The
stands are less than 10 feet
from the sidelines, and vis-
iting fans aren't allowed to
sit in between the 30-yard
lines. Behind one end zone
is a massive, 200-person
band. Behind the other is a
cemetery.
The fog was rolling
in. Carter

says that the first and only
time he believed in ghosts
happened on that field.
It was a preview of The
Game for Devin - the
opposing fans knew of his
commitment to Michigan
and treated him like he was
already in Ann Arbor.
Late in the game and up
by a touchdown, Inkster
had the ball in its own red
zone when Steubenville
fired up the band. Gard-
ner and the offensive line
couldn't . hear anything.
False starts and illegal pro-
cedures pushed the offense
deep into its own territory.
Gardner finally got a
clean play
off. He saw
a defender

cuted so manytimes before,
the one where he heaves it
back across the middle of
the field after rolling out
right - never left. It was
his welcome-to-the-show
moment last year, the one
that made him famous in
his first collegiate start as
a quarterback against Min-
nesota.
If he rolled left, he'd still
be running. Instead, he
took a safety.
Steubenville wasted no
time scoring again. Ink-
ster got the ball back with
a minute left, downa point,
needing a win against a
team that hadn't lost in
more than six years.

on third down, Gardner
took the snap out of the
shotgun, looking left before
firing a high, spiraling rain-
bow downthe rightsideline
for a 64-yard touchdown
pass, bringing home a win
in a place where teams sim-
ply don't. He finished the
game with 275 yards pass-
ing, 55 yards rushing and
four touchdowns.
Four years later at
Michigan Stadium, Gard-
ner takes the snap and
rolls right, again, getting a
glimpse of the Notre Dame
band behind him before
retreating farther and fast-
er back toward his own end
zone. He keeps rolling back
until he's being tackled in
his own end zone, but he

Steubenville, he wasn't
goingto take that safety, so
he heaved the ball away as
he was going down, right
into the hands of a Notre
Dame defensive lineman.
After the game, Carter
saw his former quirterback
in the tunnel.
"Steubenville?" Carter
asked.
Gardner looked down
and shook his head. "Yeah,
coach. Steubenville."
"He's a riverboat gam-
bler," Carter said. "He's
going to try to do it. He'll
learn with experience
when to do it and when
not to do it. That's really
hard for' a kid that can do
just about anything, who
is a super talent. It's either

career, Gardner picked
himself up, ran back to the
sideline and led Michigan
on another touchdown
drive to win the game.
At this point, the prob-
lem with Gardner is that his
problems haven't changed.
That roll-right, across-the-
body heave that Michigan
is so familiar with? Carter
was trying to get him to
change that four years ago.
It's not cockiness, exact-
ly. It's more like the smart
kid who overcommits on a
group project but takes on
too much work and ends up
hurting the end result. If'
he didn't try to do as much,
the final product would
turn out smoother. It's not
because he thinks he's bet-
ter, just that he knows how
good he is, individually.
But that's just who he
is. It's the same reason he
stuck with his com-
mit-

C
r
F
z
e
i
F
t
r
E

coming wouldn't let it be 'Wow' or 'Why
and rolled Still, even aft
right, worst
plan-.
Wing on
execut-
ng the
play
hat
he's
exe-.....

?"
ter oneofthe
plays of his

/

DETROIT - The doors
where Devin Gardner
became Devin Gardner
have super glue in the locks.
Keys don't work here any-
more, not-at Inkster, where
budget cuts have taken a
once-proud community
and turned it into a block-
ade of buildings waiting for
demolition.
There are handprints on
the windows at the front of
the school - bigger than a
child's but smaller than an
adult's. Teenagers were
peering in through the

dusty windows, trying to
get a glimpse of what used
to be Inkster High School
in metro Detroit.
Officially, the school has
been shut down for three
months, but it looks like it's
been abandoned for years,.
as if one day Inkster was
operating, and the next
everyone picked up and
left. Gatorade bottles litter
the ground by the baseball
'field, which is now more of
an overgrown swamp than
a diamond.
Next to the cesspool is

the football field, which
still has pylons, scorebooks
and yard markers in the
press box. The red, rubber
surface of the track is slow-
ly disintegrating and the
grass is dying. Soon, it will
be an overgrown field sur-
rounded by a cement oval.
On the chain-link fence
surrounding the field, a
sign remains from last foot-
ball season: Adults, $5. Stu-
dents, $3.
Even in its prime, Inkster
was never glamorous or
flashy. Bordering the foot-

4 1 FootballSaturday - October 4, 2013

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