Ja’Quan Gardner doesn’t put too much energy into thinking about the what-ifs.
The 2014 Central Valley High School grad earned a full-ride scholarship to Division-II Humboldt State following a remarkable three-year varsity career in football.
Diminutive in size as he stands just 5 feet, 7 inches, Gardner didn’t receive any significant offers from D-I schools prior to signing with the Lumberjacks.
Ja’Quan could have attempted to join Fresno State’s program as a walk-on player.
“I’m happy where I’m at,” he said. “It’s just a great place to be.”
With Gardner leading the way, visiting Humboldt State upset defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference champion/17th-ranked Azusa Pacific 62-41 on Sept. 12.
“It’s a big win for us,” Ja’Quan said. “I feel like our whole team played a great game. We executed. Everybody was focused. It wasn’t a conference game. We’ll see them again. Hopefully, we get another victory.”
For the second week in a row, Gardner earned GNAC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his dominance on the gridiron.
“We’re focused on winning games and getting more national recognition as a team,” he said.
Ja’Quan turned in another record-breaking performance this past weekend.
He carried the ball 26 times for a career-best 229 yards and three touchdowns.
Gardner ripped off TD runs of 8, 22 and 51 yards.
"He has a big heart, and our five guys up front love blocking for him," Humboldt State head coach Rob Smith said. “He is a tremendous talent. Last year we saw some of his potential, and over the first two weeks of this season, he has had back-to-back special performances."
Humboldt State improved to 2-0 on the year and climbed to No. 25 in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll.
Gardner currently ranks third in rushing yards (430) at the NCAA Division-II level.
“I give credit to my offensive line,” he said. “They’re working hard for me. They make my job easy. I just get the ball and run.”
Gardner filled a key role as Humboldt State experienced a major turnaround last fall.
The Lumberjacks compiled an 8-2 overall record and tied for second place in the GNAC standings (4-2) with Central Washington (7-4, 4-2) and Western Oregon (6-5, 4-2).
Humboldt State dropped all 11 of its games in 2013.
Ja'Quan was selected to the all-GNAC Second Team his freshman year.
He ranked second on the team in rushing yards (607), touchdowns (8) and carries (88).
He averaged a team-leading 6.9 yards per carry.
Gardner caught eight passes for 125 yards and one TD.
He totaled 193 yards on six kickoff returns.
“I’m having fun,” Ja’Quan said. “Last year, I didn’t know what to expect competing as a true freshman. With experience, everything slows down. We want to win conference championships. That’s on our minds. That’s our motivation.”
Humboldt State will play host to Dixie State this Saturday at 6 p.m.
The Lumberjacks defeated the Red Storm twice (50-3, 71-13) in 2014.
“It should be a pretty fun game,” Gardner said.