Ja’Quan Gardner began the next chapter of his football career on Tuesday when he signed a three-contract as a rookie free agent with the San Francisco 49ers.
People from the city of Ceres, surrounding communities and throughout the state of California will be waiting anxiously to see if the 2014 Central Valley High School graduate gets a chance to compete against the Los Angeles Chargers tonight.
Ja’Quan could see playing time at running back during the 49ers’ final preseason game.
“It will be fun to be a spectator,” said Scott Edwards, Central Valley’s varsity football head coach for the past five seasons. “We’ll be watching the game as a team. We have Back-to-School Night so we’ll miss the opening kickoff.”
Les Bonsu, Gardner’s trainer, will attend the game with 13 other Bonsu Elite Athletics family members.
“We’re meeting at the gym at 4 p.m. and heading out from there,” he said.
Bonsu visited Gardner Wednesday morning.
He took pictures of Ja’Quan’s locker stall and helmet.
“He was studying his playbook last night before going to sleep,” Bonsu said. “He has to make the most out of every opportunity.”
Bret Durossette, a Ceres councilmember and former head coach of Ceres High’s varsity football program, will barbecue steaks and watch the game at home with his family.
“He went to school at Central Valley but he’s a Ceres kid,” Durossette said. “Even people here at Ceres High are excited. This is big time. A lot of kids are going to be glued to their TVs.”
Jason McCloskey, Gardner’s head coach during his junior and senior years at Central Valley, will watch a replay of the game later in the evening.
McCloskey has to referee the girls’ powder-puff flag football contest at Mountain House High School.
“I’m recording it,” he said. “If he makes a play, I’ll rewind it 1,000 times and watch it.”
Current and past leaders from the Ceres Seahawks Youth Football & Cheer Organization, Gardner’s alma mater, are also looking forward to seeing one of their former players compete at the next level.
“He’s been coming out to our practices up until last week,” said Willie Solorio, current president. “He has a nephew that’s playing for us. Everyone is talking about him. I’m not a 49ers fan but I will be watching the game tonight. I bet the ratings in this area are going to go up.”
“It’s a great opportunity for him,” added Javier Fregoso, past president. “He’s going to take full advantage of it.”