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Gardner wins GNAC Offensive Player of the Year award
CV grad has record-breaking season with Humboldt
JaQuan Gardner, pictured carrying the ball, had a memorable sophomore campaign while starring on Humboldt States football team. - photo by Photo courtesy of Louis Ramirez

Just a sophomore, Central Valley High School grad Ja'Quan Gardner has already established himself as one of Humboldt State's all-time leading rushers.

Ja'Quan was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year on Nov. 18.

He was also a unanimous All-GNAC First-Team selection for the NCAA Division-II Lumberjacks.

Humboldt State won the GNAC title outright with a perfect 6-0 mark thanks in large part to Gardner's dominance on the gridiron.

"The whole week, we focused on the playoff game," Gardner. "I haven't had time to let it sink in. It's a great honor. But I'm just playing football and having fun. The main focus is winning ball games."

Gardner ran for 246 yards and two touchdowns during fourth-seeded Humboldt State's 45-31 victory over No. 5 Augustana in the Super Region Three bracket on Nov. 21.

"We haven't hosted a playoff game in over 50 years," Ja'Quan said. "We wanted to put on a show for our fans. The community around here was definitely excited."

Gardner currently ranks first in the nation in rushing yards (2,266), rushing touchdowns (25) and rushing yards per game (188.8), and second in all-purpose yards per game (197.9).

Ja'Quan broke Humboldt State's single-season and single-game rushing yard records.

He shattered the GNAC's single-season rushing yard and carries marks.

Gardner also tossed TD passes of 66 and 43 yards.

Ja'Quan totaled a team-record 305 yards during the Lumberjacks' 34-16 Homecoming win against two-time defending GNAC champion Azusa Pacific on Oct. 10.

He was named the conference's Offensive Player of the Week five times this season.

"I can't give enough credit to my offensive line," Ja'Quan said. "They make my job easier."

Gardner climbed to No. 2 on Humboldt State's career rushing list with 2,873 yards.

"Ja'Quan is truly a special player," Lumberjacks head coach Rob Smith said. "Every opponent is game planning to shut him down, but he still goes out and gets the yards. Give credit to the offensive line and those blocking for him and give credit to Ja'Quan."

Humboldt State closed out the 2015 season with a 54-7 loss to top-seeded Northwest Missouri State in the second round of the playoffs on Nov. 28 at Bearcat Stadium.

Ja'Quan was limited to a season-low 24 yards and no touchdowns on 14 carries by the nation's best defense.

"It will be a challenge, offensively," Gardner said leading up to the game. "But we're looking forward to it. To be the best, you got to beat the best. We just got to play our game."

The Lumberjacks compiled a 10-2 overall record and collected their first postseason win in 47 years this fall.