Humboldt State will cut its football program following the 2018 due to a university budget deficit.
Players and coaches were informed of the decision on July 17.
Central Valley High School grad Ja’Quan Gardner was a standout running back with the Lumberjacks from 2014-17.
“Of course, it’s disappointing ... We thought the program would be there for the next five years."Ja’Quan Gardner
“Of course, it’s disappointing,” he said. “It’s still hard to believe. We thought the program would be there for the next five years. I feel bad for the underclassmen. They’re going to have to find another place to play. It’s just a tough situation overall.”
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.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Ja’Quan said. “Nobody is going to have an opportunity to break any of the school and conference records wearing a Humboldt State jersey. Records are meant to be broken.”
Gardner enjoyed competing in front of home fans at the Redwood Bowl in Arcata.
“I made a lot of great memories there,” he said. “It was one of the best game-day experiences. It’s a tradition that’s not going to be continued. That’s a sad thing.”
Humboldt State will kick off its final season at Midwestern State University on Sept. 1 in Texas.
The Lumberjacks went 8-2 and finished in second place in the GNAC (6-2) in 2017. “I’m going to try to go to some games this year,” Gardner said. “I think they’ll do great. They’ll have a chip on their shoulder. They want to be remembered in the right way.”