Andre Barthwell: Expectations for this group – they’re pretty high. Last year, you guys were a little shaky. You were learning another new system. This is the second year, so you guys should be a little more comfortable with it; you being a senior. How are you feeling about that right now?
Thomas Gordon: “Definitely with it being the second year in the system, we’re going to make way more strides than we did last year. And we’re looking forward – we have big expectations for ourselves, you know? We just can’t wait for the season to get here, to ball out.”
Andre Barthwell: Relationship-wise with you and Jordan Kovacs, how much stronger has it gotten? Not just getting along, because I know you guys get along. I’m talking about in terms of communication now back there on that back line. You know, you guys are the last line of defense. Feeling a little more comfortable now, in terms of you guys understanding what’s going on, and calling the plays?
Thomas Gordon: “Oh yeah, definitely. It’s like second nature to us now. This summer, that’s about the most film I’ve watched since forever, you know? Being in the film room, seven-on-sevens in the summer, with me and Jordan just spending a lot of time off the field, too, you know—that strengthens our bond together. So, yeah, that’s definitely helped us.”
Andre Barthwell: I’ve always been a firm believer that guys that get along off the field generally translate that onto the field and become more successful. Are you feeling that about you and Jordan, as you just stated?
Thomas Gordon: “Definitely. You know, you hang out off the field, and you get to learn about that person, and you build that bond, so when you step on the field, you know you have that person next to you when you go to war.”
Andre Barthwell: As coach said, your practices are pretty physical. You’re getting after it. The grind, you know? Now that you’re a senior, how much more prepared are you for this kind of physicality that you guys are going through?
Thomas Gordon: “Yeah, we knew what we were stepping into this camp, as opposed to last year, so you came in with the mentality that it was going to be a physical camp. It’s held up to that standard so far, but we’ve been ready for it, you know? We’ll keep getting after it.”
Andre Barthwell: Do you care to comment on some of the guys, or overall as a group, that have improved?
Thomas Gordon: “Really, you can’t single out one person, because it’s all about improving as a team, and that’s what we have been doing, as far as defense overall and defensive backs, so that’s key.”
Andre Barthwell: How happy are you with the freshmen, and their work ethic, and how they’ve been trying to get after it?
Thomas Gordon: “Oh, those young guys are hungry, and they want to learn; they want to play. They’re here at Michigan to compete. That’s what they came here for. So they’re trying to learn everything from me, Jordan, and the other older guys, and you know, we’re all for it. It’s all for Michigan, so…”
Andre Barthwell: Being in that leadership position, how are you translating that onto them? Showing them what they need to do? You know, the way you were helped?
Thomas Gordon: “Right, exactly. It’s all about showing them the ropes. You can’t be a selfish guy in this program. It’s all about healthy competition, because competition is going to breed better players making plays, and that’s what we’re all about. “
Andre Barthwell: It seems like, now with you guys – with Coach Hoke here – we obviously have to ask him about certain players, and he’s going to answer those questions, but it seems like from last year to this year, you all are becoming more of, I guess, a unit. You know, not individual units – defensive back units, linebacker units, but a unit overall. Not singling any one guy out; talking about us as a team and as a family. Talk about that a little bit, and that transition, in terms of not singling anyone out, but we want the whole group to do well.
Thomas Gordon: “Yeah, definitely, it’s about being more as a team, and one cohesive unit. Going against another team, or going on the road, you know, it’s just those guys, your brothers, there in the locker room, so you have to be close knit, or you’re going to fall apart.”
Andre Barthwell: I asked you before, when we were off camera, to talk about those sticks a little bit. When I say ‘sticks’, I mean controllers, X-Box and Playstation. Mr. Countess said, and I quote, ‘I’m the best on the team’. I’m asking you, who’s that guy?
Thomas Gordon: “Blake, he’s more of a PS3 guy. I’m strictly, solely, X-Box 360, and I single myself to shooting games – Modern Warfare, things of that nature. I get on NCAA every once in a while and school him a little bit, but catch me on X-Box playing Modern Warfare all day.”
Andre Barthwell: I noticed you said NCAA football, you schooled him a little bit, so I’m assuming on X-Box, nobody can really handle you like that.
Thomas Gordon: “Naw, you know, most of our players on our team are PS3, so I find a few competitors. “
Andre Barthwell: The excitement of – not just Alabama, but just coming into the season, knowing what the expectations are, knowing that you guys – you know, like most teams feel, you have a chance at the national title – how does that make you feel? You know, being a senior now, and being in contention for it, knowing that you have a shot?
Thomas Gordon: “It’s a lot of expectations for this team this year, and you know, we’re going against ten teams that were bowl-eligible last year. We have five road games this year, and four of them in prime time, and every game is important. We’re just so ready and hyped up for this season. We know what’s on the line, but we want it all, and that’s the goal this year.”
Andre Barthwell: And the last question. Being here at Michigan, Coach always says, ‘This is Michigan’. You know, everyone should expect this from Michigan. How does it feel now that Michigan is kind of getting back to their – as some people would say – their rightful place of being at the top?
Thomas Gordon: “Being here at Michigan, we’re just held to a higher standard than other schools, and I just don’t think we ever fell off, we just reloaded, you know? And we’re back, and we’re going to stay where we are.”
For additional commentary from Thomas Gordon, on his leap in conditioning and performance during the offseason, improved on-field chemistry with Jordan Kovacs, his individual goals, and more, press play below.