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CV grad Gardner will continue football career with Humboldt Lumberjacks
A standout running back for three seasons on Central Valley High Schools varsity football team, JaQuan Gardner will continue his athletic career at Humboldt State University. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

Ja'Quan Gardner wowed high school football fans for three seasons.

The 2014 Central Valley graduate/Stanislaus District record-breaking running back will continue his gridiron career at Humboldt State University.

Gardner earned a full-ride scholarship to the Division-II school.

"I've always wanted to play football at the college level," he said. "I'm excited and nervous. I know what I have to do. I just have to stay focused and work hard."

Humboldt State struggled to an 0-11 overall record and last-place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings (0-10).

"I'm just looking forward to the step up in competition," Gardner said. "I'm playing against the best now. I got to get bigger, stronger and faster. I plan on putting on a few more pounds when I get down there."

When asked if he would compete at Humboldt State as a true freshman, Gardner said, "I'm not sure yet. I'll do whatever coach wants me to do. Hopefully, my role will increase. If not, I got to work harder."

Ja'Quan moved to Arcata this morning.

Gardner will live on campus at Humboldt State.

He registered for classes on-line last Thursday.

"It's something you got to do," Gardner said. "It's part of growing up. I'm ready for it. I want to make my mom (Stacey Gardner) proud."

Gardner, a three-year varsity starter in football at Central Valley, broke the Stanislaus District's career and single-season rushing yard records last fall.

Ja'Quan rumbled for 2,467 yards and 27 touchdowns his senior year.

He totaled 6,014 yards and 67 TDs in 31 career games.

Gardner helped the Hawks reach their team goal of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time this past season. Central Valley also secured its first-ever winning record (6-5).

Ja'Quan ran for 378 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries during 15th-seeded Central Valley's 69-55 loss to No. 2 Manteca in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoffs. He also tossed a 4-yard TD pass to Christian Romo.

The Buffaloes (13-2) captured section and Valley Oak League titles.

Gardner rushed for 330 yards and three TDs in a 43-34 loss to Central Catholic in Western Athletic Conference play.

The Raiders (15-1) won State, NorCal and Section championships.

Gardner was recognized multiple times for his dominance in football during his final season with the Hawks.

Ja'Quan won the USA Today/Asics Ultimate Athlete of the Year competition in December. One of eight finalists, Ja'Quan finished in first place with 207,062 votes.

He was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports medium schools' first team offense.

He was named to the MaxPreps 2013 All-Northern California and All-Sac-Joaquin Section first teams.

Gardner was voted Western Athletic Conference MVP.

Ja'Quan became the first student from Central Valley to be named the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club's Male High School Athlete of the Year.

Gardner was also the recipient of the Golden Hawk Award, an honor recognizing the school's top male athlete.

"I'm proud of what we did, especially our senior year," he said. "It's truly amazing. There's not too much I would have done differently. The thing I'm going to miss the most is playing with my friends."