Central Valley High School Athletic Director Greg Magni saw the news on his Twitter feed today and wasn’t the least bit surprised.
Former CVHS star running back Ja’Quan Gardner was named to the D2Football.com 2010-19 All-Decade Team for his dominant play with the Humboldt State football program.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Magni said. “He proved he’s worthy of being on the list. The numbers don’t lie. He dominated every single year. Some of his records will not be touched again.”
“I had no idea until my agent texted me this morning,” Gardner stated. “He sent me the list. To be recognized as one of the top four running backs to play D2 football in the last decade is a pretty cool achievement. I want to thank all of my teammates and coaches, and the fans from Humboldt.”
“That’s awesome,” added Jason McCloskey, Gardner’s high school coach his senior and junior years. “It’s not a surprise he was named to this. The only surprise is he’s not in the NFL. He’ll do great if someone gives him a shot. He has all the intangibles as a player. He loves the game. He’s a great person.”
Gardner was selected to the All-Decade Second Team.
He rushed for 2,266 yards—the sixth-highest single-season total in NCAA Division-II history—as a sophomore in 2015.
Gardner’s 188.8 rushing yards per game average from that year ranks 15th all-time.
“That’s all decades combined,” Magni said.
A total of 50 players were recognized by D2Football.com.
The All-Decade Team was selected by staff from the website with input from coaches across the country.
“He brings more to the table than the yards,” Magni said. “He’s a great leader and teammate, and person both on and off the field. He hasn’t changed since we met him. He has the same attitude and drive to be great. He’s remained humble through the experiences.”
“It puts everything into perspective,” Gardner said. “I put a lot of time into this game. It’s added motivation to keep going.”
Gardner re-wrote the Humboldt State football record book.
He shattered 10 team records, including rushing yards in a career (5,426), rushing yards in a single season (2,266), rushing yards in a single game (313), touchdowns scored in a career (93), touchdowns scored in a season (25), touchdowns scored in a game (5), points scored in a career (450), points scored in a season (150), points scored in a game (36) and longest rushing play.
Gardner was runner-up for the Harlon Hill award, the NCAA Division-II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, 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 Great Northwest Athletic Conference title outright with a perfect 6-0 mark and collected its first postseason victory in 47 years.
Gardner became the GNAC’s all-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) in 2017.
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.
A three-time D2 Conference Commissioners Association All-American, Gardner was voted GNAC Offensive Player of the Year twice.
He was also named an All-American by the Associated Press and American Football Coaches Association.
“I wouldn’t change those four years,” said Gardner, who arrived on the Humboldt State campus in 2014 and brought national attention to the football program a year later. “I wouldn’t choose another school. They (members of the community) showed me personally and the team nothing but love.”
“I haven’t thought about my legacy there,” Gardner added. “I was just trying to live my dream and play college football.”
“There’s a reason everyone speaks so highly of Ja’Quan,” said McCloskey, who along with his family, attended the majority of Gardner’s home college games. “He’s worked so hard. He means a lot to everyone that’s coached and got to know him.”
Gardner was playing for the Seattle Dragons of the rebooted XFL this spring before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“This was not part of the game plan,” Gardner said. “I still wake up every day and can’t believe it. We have to quarantine.”
Gardner will be prepared to prove himself if he gets signed by an NFL team.
He will also have the option to play in the XFL in 2021.
“I still have joy for the game,” Gardner said.
“He’s still working hard and it looks like he hasn’t lost his focus,” Magni said. “We’re all proud of him and his accomplishments.”