Devin Gardner is one of the newest additions to the Pittsburgh Steelers squad. Initially undrafted, he signed with the New England Patriots and was released a few weeks ago. The Steelers were quick to pick him up on May 19 hoping to convert the former Michigan quarterback to wide receiver.
Gardner played wide receiver during his 2012 season at Michigan before converting to quarterback, but the current shift is still not easy. Gardner described the transition to Steelers.com, explaining, "It's a different kind of work. At quarterback you don't do much running. You run every once in a while, but you control when the play starts. It's a different kind of conditioning, a feel. I'm getting more used to it. I'm trying to get better every day. It's not something in particular where I am really struggling. Catch the ball well, run well and get open. Those are the key things to be a receiver."
While not common, there are still examples of college quarterbacks who have transitioned to other positions. Julian Edelman of the Patriots was a record-setting quarterback at Kent State before he was selected by the Patriots in the last round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Edelman has been productive as both a receiver and punt returner for his team.
Former Steelers wide receivers Hines Ward and Antwan Randle El were quarterbacks in their pre-NFL careers as well. Picked up in the second round of the 2002 draft, Randle-El's had a smooth transition from QB to WR, The Steelers were also able to leverage his skill set creatively, throwing 27 passes in his nine years in the NFL. This year, the Steelers brought in former Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, intending on using him as a wide receiver.
In scouting reports, Gardner was criticized for his comparative lack of experience at WR, below-average speed, and issues with dropping the ball. Still, the Steelers saw enough potential to give him a chance.
Gardner is enthusiastic about the opportunity and hopes to make the roster. "I'm excited to do whatever I can to make the roster," he said. "I am excited to get a chance to start blocking and stuff (in training camp) and show different kinds of toughness, things you can't show in shorts."
Gardner will have stiff competition with the likes of Murphy, C.J. Goodwin and veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey all gunning for the final spots on the wide receiver depth chart.