Less than 24 hours removed from having surgery on his right shoulder, Central Valley High School grad Ja’Quan Gardner found out the Alliance of American Football league suspended all operations for the remainder of its inaugural season.
“I was watching ESPN (on April 2),” said Gardner, a standout running back with the AAF’s San Diego Fleet. “I texted my teammates and asked them what was going on. It’s frustrating because it had nothing to do with what we were doing on the field. One guy that had the money pulled the plug.”
Gardner thanked the Fleet organization and its fan base via Twitter.
“San Diego showed us love,” he said. “They were definitely happy to have football back. I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
Gardner ranked eighth in rushing yards (311) in the AAF.
He scored three touchdowns.
He averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
Gardner was named the AAF’s Offensive Player of the Week after setting multiple records in the Fleet’s 31-11 home win over the San Antonio Commanders on Feb. 24.
He rushed for an AAF single-game record 122 yards.
He raced 83 yards for a TD in the third quarter. It was the longest scoring play in Alliance history.
Gardner became the first player AAF history to post back-to-back 100-plus yard games.
He had a league-leading 281 rushing yards through the AAF’s first three games.
Gardner was put on the injured-reserve list after partially tearing his labrum in his right shoulder in a 32-15 loss to the Arizona Hotshots on March 24.
“This is the highest level of football I’ve played,” he said. “I was able to prove myself. I’m looking forward to what’s coming next. I just need to be given an opportunity.”
Gardner will be cleared to play football in 4-6 months.
“I’m a very optimistic person,” he said. “I’m not worried about the whole recovery process. It doesn’t shake my confidence. I’ll be back. I know what I got to do.”
“We’re definitely getting some attention from NFL teams,” Gardner added. “I just have to make sure I’m healthy. That’s the next step.”