Ja’Quan Gardner’s professional football career has been put on hold again.
A year removed from suffering a season-ending shoulder injury while starring at running back in the Alliance of American Football League, Gardner and the Seattle Dragons played their last XFL game on March 7.
The XFL and sports leagues across the United States have postponed and/or canceled their 2020 seasons to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
“Everybody understands it’s bigger than football. The professionals made the right decision taking extra caution. They’re trying to do what’s best for us.”Ja’Quan Gardner
“Everybody understands it’s bigger than football,” said Gardner, a 2014 Central Valley High School grad and Humboldt State’s all-time greatest tailback. “The professionals made the right decision taking extra caution. They’re trying to do what’s best for us.”
XFL players will receive their base pay and benefits for the rest of the rebooted XFL’s regular season.
“It’s great leadership on their part,” Gardner said. “It shows they care.”
Gardner totaled 127 yards on 35 carries while splitting playing time at running back for the Dragons, who compiled a 1-4 record en route to finishing in fourth place in the West.
“I’m really thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “It was definitely a fun experience.”
Gardner’s most productive performance came against the Dallas Renegades. He rushed for a team-high 37 yards on eight attempts.
“You can’t take individual credit in football,” he said. “Everybody has to be on the same page.”
Seattle ranked first in home attendance through the first four weeks of the season. A combined 51,232 fans watched the Dragons’ first two games at CenturyLink Field.
“We had one of the best fan bases in the league,” Gardner said. “They embraced us.”
Gardner made a name for himself during the inaugural season of Alliance of American Football prior to having his season cut short by a right-shoulder injury. The AAF ended up suspending all operations.
Gardner ranked eighth in rushing yards (311) in the league.
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.
He rushed for an AAF single-game records 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 in 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 a 32-15 loss to the Arizona Hotshots on March 24.
He provided depth at running back during the San Francisco 49ers’ final 2018 preseason game. A long-shot to make the team’s 53-man regular-season roster due to his late signing, Gardner was released.
Gardner brought national attention to Humboldt State’s program.
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, as a sophomore in 2015. He ranked first in the nation in rushing yards (2,266), rushing yards per game (188.8) and rushing touchdowns (25).
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.
Gardner, a three-year starter at Central Valley, broke the Stanislaus District’s single-season rushing yards record during his final season with the Hawks.
He totaled 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games. Homer Garza set the previous mark (2,195) in 1997 with Hughson.
Gardner ranked first on the Stanislaus District’s career rushing yards list (6,014) when he graduated from Central Valley. He eclipsed Central Catholic star Louis Bland’s all-time record. Bland (2004-07) piled up 5,140 yards in 47 games.
Gardner tallied a program-best 67 TDs.
He will be prepared if he gets invited to an NFL training camp.
“I’m going to control what I can control,” Gardner said. “I’m going to train and wait for the next opportunity. I’m having a good time playing the game. My story is still being written.”