Ja’Quan Gardner received a phone call from his agent at 4:30 p.m. on Monday while training at Bonsu Elite Athletics in Ceres.
The San Francisco 49ers contacted Cameron Weiss and expressed interest in signing Gardner.
Ja’Quan was added to the organization’s roster on Tuesday after passing a physical. He signed a three-year deal with the 49ers.
“I was shocked, really didn’t know how to feel,” said Gardner, a 2014 Central Valley High School grad and former Humboldt State star running back. “You always envision this happening, but for it to actually happen is a blessing. I’m just thankful. This is what I worked for.”
“There’s a buzz on campus right now,” Central Valley athletic director Greg Magni said. “Everybody is talking about it. Everyone is excited. There are so many people in our community pulling for him. Ja’Quan is a character-first guy. He’s a great person. He’s humble. He works hard. At the same time, he’s confident in his abilities.”
Gardner could play in San Francisco’s preseason finale versus the Los Angeles Chargers this Thursday. The game will be televised on CBS at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be an unforgettable moment not only for myself but for the people that have supported me through these years,” Ja’Quan said. “My goal is to just go out there, do what I do, and try to prove that I belong on the field.”
“It’s definitely going to be fun to see him in that Niners uniform,” Magni said. “We’re hoping he gets some touches.”
“You always envision this happening, but for it to actually happen is a blessing. I’m just thankful. This is what I worked for.”Ja'Quan Gardner
The 49ers added 5-foot-7 200-pound Gardner to their roster due to a lack of depth at running back.
Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Joe Williams are sidelined with injuries.
NFL teams are required to reduce their rosters to a maximum of 53 players on Sept. 1.
“We all know how good of a runner he is,” Bonsu said. “He can pass protect. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s a very likeable person. If he’s given the opportunity, I have no doubt he’ll be successful. He’s good enough to make a roster.”
Gardner brought national attention to Humboldt State’s football program.
He finished seventh in voting for the Harlon Hill award, the NCAA Division-II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, after rushing for 1,259 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns during his senior year.
A three-time D2 Conference Commissioners Association All-American, Gardner was voted Great Northwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year for the second time.
He was also named an All American by the Associated Press and American Football Coaches Association.
Ja’Quan became the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s all-time leader in career touchdowns scored (75), points scored (450), all-purpose yards (6,979), all-purpose yards per game (170.2), rushing attempts (878), rushing yards (5,426) and rushing touchdowns (70).
He set conference single-game marks with 446 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, and tied another league record with five rushing TDs during Humboldt State’s 52-49 Homecoming win over Azusa Pacific.
Gardner’s performance earned him GNAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for a record-tying ninth time.
He shattered 10 team records during his first three seasons at Humboldt State, including rushing yardage in a career, rushing yardage in a season, rushing yardage in a single game, touchdowns scored in a career, touchdowns scored in a season, touchdowns scored in a game, points scored in a career, points scored in a season, points scored in a game and longest rushing play.
Gardner was runner-up for the Harlon Hill award in 2015. He ranked first in the nation in rushing yards (2,266), rushing yards per game (188.8), and rushing touchdowns (25). Humboldt State compiled a 10-2 overall record, won the GNAC title outright with a perfect 6-0 mark and collected its first postseason victory in 47 years.
Ja’Quan was the recipient of the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club’s College/Open Men’s Division and Male High School Outstanding Athlete Awards in 2017 and 2014, respectively.
Gardner, a three-year starter at Central Valley, broke the Stanislaus District's single-season rushing yards record during his final season with the Hawks.
He totaled 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games. Homer Garza set the previous mark (2,195) in 1997 with Hughson.
Ja'Quan was voted USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year.
He was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports medium schools' first-team offense.
He was named to the MaxPreps All-Northern California and All-Sac-Joaquin Section first teams.
He also won the Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player award.
Ja'Quan ranked first on the Stanislaus District's career rushing yards list (6,014) when he graduated from Central Valley. He eclipsed Central Catholic star Louis Bland's all-time record. Bland (2004-07) piled up 5,140 yards in 47 games.
Gardner tallied a program-best 67 TDs.
Ja'Quan helped Central Valley reach its team goal of qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in 2013. The Hawks also posted their first-ever winning record (6-5).
“He’s been very successful as a football player,” said Jason McCloskey, Gardner’s head coach during his senior and junior years at Central Valley. “He truly has a love for the game. He’s an amazing teammate. He’s a phenomenal person. I’m glad he’s getting an opportunity to showcase his skills. I’m not an NFL executive, but I do see Ja’Quan making it somewhere. I do think it will be with the 49ers. If he’s there long enough, they’ll figure out they got something special.”