Ja’Quan Gardner made a name for himself during his freshman year with Humboldt State’s football team last fall.
Gardner rushed for 607 yards and eight touchdowns on 88 carries en route to earning second-team, all-Great Northwest Athletic Conference honors.
On Tuesday, Gardner was named GNAC Offensive Player of the Week following his standout performance against Western Oregon.
Ja’Quan gained 201 yards and scored one touchdown on 33 carries while leading the Lumberjacks to a 29-20 season-opening win over the host Wolves on Sept. 5.
“I found out yesterday,” Gardner said. “I was walking into the locker room. My teammate (Codey Heidebrecht) told me. He got GNAC Defensive Player of the Week. It’s a cool deal.”
Ja’Quan had a career-day against Western Oregon.
“To be able to play a full game healthy felt good,” said Gardner, who missed two-and-a-half games last season with a thigh contusion. “I had no idea I had that many carries and yards. We just went with what was working. The offensive line was opening up holes. It was a great team win.”
Gardner’s mother and sister attended the Humboldt State-Western Oregon game, along with former Central Valley head coach Jason McCloskey and Hawk teammates Alex Medina and Lorenzo Jimenez.
“I got a chance to talk with him (McCloskey),” Gardner said. “We had lunch together the next day. It’s cool to still have the support.”
Gardner ate dinner at Applebee’s with Medina and Jimenez after leading the Lumberjacks past the Wolves.
Ja’Quan had chicken pasta and a lot of appetizers.
“I was tired,” he said. “I wanted to take a nap. I was sore from the neck down the next day.”
Gardner and the Lumberjacks will host defending GNAC champion Azusa Pacific (1-0) this Saturday at 6 p.m.
“I was excited to kick the season off,” said Ja’Quan, who was sidelined with a shoulder sprain during Humboldt State’s Green & Gold Scrimmage in July. “We’re ready to take the next step. We want the top spot. We were close last year. We have a great group of running backs here.”
Gardner filled a key role as the Lumberjacks experienced a major turnaround in 2014.
Humboldt State posted 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).
Ja’Quan averaged a team-leading 6.9 yards per carry.
He ranked second on the team in rushing yards, touchdowns and carries.
Gardner caught eight passes for 125 yards and one TD.
He totaled 193 yards on six kickoff returns.
The Lumberjacks dropped all 11 of their games in 2013.
Gardner, a three-year varsity starter in football at Central Valley, broke the Stanislaus District's career and single-season rushing yard records.
Ja'Quan rumbled for 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns his senior year.
He totaled 6,014 yards and 67 TDs in 31 career games.
Gardner helped the Hawks reach their team goal of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in 2013. Central Valley also secured its first-ever winning record (6-5).
Ja'Quan earned a full-ride scholarship to Division-II Humboldt State.
“It’s an honor,” Gardner said. “I’m just trying to play football and have fun.”