Ja’Quan Gardner’s next playing opportunity could be in the XFL, a professional football league owned by WWE Chairman/CEO Vince McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment.
The former Central Valley High School/Humboldt State star running back’s name was added to the XFL Draft Pool last week.
The XFL will stage its first player draft this Tuesday and Wednesday.
Each of the league’s eight teams, including Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C., will select 70 players.
Training camps will be held in November.
“You don’t know how the draft will play out,” Gardner said. “It’s a waiting game. I’m definitely excited. All I want to do is play football right now. I’ll be ready for whatever opportunity comes my way.”
“This is another chance to prove to everybody he’s as good as we’ve known him to be,” Central Valley Athletic Director Greg Magni said. “It would be a shock if he doesn’t get picked.”
Gardner made a name for himself during the inaugural season of the AAF, which got underway in February and ended prematurely in April due to funding issues.
He was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week after setting multiple records in the Fleet’s 31-11 home win over the San Antonio Commanders on Feb. 24.
He rushed for an AAF single-game record 122 yards.
He raced 83 yards for a TD in the third quarter. It was the longest scoring play in Alliance history.
Gardner also 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 league’s first three games prior to having his season cut short by a shoulder injury.
Gardner was put on the injured-reserve list following San Diego’s 32-15 loss to the Arizona Hotshots on March 24.
He ranked eighth in rushing yards (311) in the AAF.
He scored three touchdowns.
He averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
“My name is a little more known in the pro industry because I put out some good film,” Gardner said.
The 2020 XFL campaign will kick off after the NFL Super Bowl.
The XFL previously ran for a single season in 2001.
League officials evaluated talent at invite-only workouts during the summertime.
Unable to participate, Gardner and seven other running backs attended the Los Angeles Showcase on June 21 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to compete because I’m not fully recovered from my injury,” he said. “But I thought it was really important for me to show up. I met the coaching staff and a couple scouts from other XFL teams.”
“We’ve been in touch through the rehab process,” Magni stated. “He’s done everything right since he got injured. He’s been working nonstop. If someone is smart enough to take a chance on him, they’re not going to regret it. He’s the real deal.”
Gardner had surgery in April to repair a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The procedure lasted 45 minutes.
Gardner rehabbed twice a week for five months at Select Physical Therapy in Stockton.
“It was tough,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t experienced before. Never once did I hang my head. I was very positive. There was no reason to dwell on it. That’s a risk you take when you go on the field.”
Gardner was cleared to start training at Bonsu Elite Athletics in Ceres in August.
“My shoulder is good now,” he said. “I’ve built the strength back to normal. I didn’t rush it.”
When asked if he had any special plans for the XFL Draft, Gardner said: “I’m going to treat it like a regular day. I’ll keep the same schedule. I’m going to work out. Hopefully, I get a call.”