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Gardner reflects on junior year
Humboldt State junior running back/Central Valley grad JaQuan Gardner has been named to the NCAA Division-II Collegiate Commissioners Association All-America Team for the second year in a row. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The Humboldt State football team's 2016 campaign was filled with ups and downs.

The NCAA Division-II Lumberjacks compiled a 6-5 overall record and placed third in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings (3-5).

In 2015, Humboldt State finished 10-2 and earned its first playoff win in 47 years.

The Lumberjacks captured the GNAC championship with a perfect 6-0 mark.

"You always want to improve and do better," Central Valley grad/Humboldt State junior star running back Ja'Quan Gardner said. "We didn't have the type of season we wanted. We never gave up. We kept fighting. We always had confidence in ourselves."

Gardner was named to the Division-II Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) All-America Team for the second year in a row on Dec. 14.

The second-team pick rushed for a conference-leading 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Ja'Quan ranked 10th in Division II in TDs and total rushing yards, 13th in rushing yards per game (118.2) and 14th in all-purpose yards per game (159.9).

He also caught 42 passes for 324 yards and one TD.

Gardner had 1,759 all-purpose yards and 19 total touchdowns.

Ja'Quan earned CCA Super Region Three First Team honors for the second straight season.

Gardner was recognized in a vote by the GNAC head coaches on Nov. 15.

He garnered first-team all-conference recognition for the second consecutive year.

Ja'Quan continues to fill the stat sheet despite facing defenses designed to stop him.

"Every team knows we like to run the ball," Gardner said while talking about his role on the team. "It's part of the game."

Ja'Quan has already cemented his place in history as Humboldt State's greatest running back by shattering 10 team records, including rushing yardage in a career (4,121), rushing yardage in a season (2,266), rushing yardage in a single game (313), touchdowns scored in a career (53), touchdowns scored in a season (25), touchdowns scored in a game (5), points scored in a career (318), points scored in a season (150), points scored in a game (30) and longest rushing play (87).

"I haven't had time to sit back and think about that," Gardner said. "I still have a job to do. I got another year left."

Humboldt State entered 2016 ranked No. 13 in the NCAA Division-II American Football Coaches Association Preseason Poll.

The Lumberjacks were also picked to repeat as conference champions.

Humboldt State underachieved as a team this fall as it dropped four of its first seven games.

The Lumberjacks finished the year strong, winning three of four contests.

"We'll have a lot of confidence going into next season," Gardner said.

Ja'Quan will try to fulfill a life-long athletic dream after he graduates from Humboldt State.

Gardner, who stands 5 feet 7 inches and weighs 205 pounds, will try to earn a roster spot with an NFL team.

Ja'Quan packs a big punch at a small size just like 5-8 Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons.

"I pay attention to that," Gardner said. "It definitely gives me more hope to reach my ultimate goal. I just want to keep playing football for as long as I can."