Garrard's pro potential spotted early
Posted May 17, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Well sports fans, yesterday my cell phone began to ring over and over. I was getting requests from all around the state for comments on David Garrard's apparent retirement. As of this writing, I have not talked with Dave as I am sure he is going through a checkout procedure with the Jets and arranging travel plans. So, having said that, I will give everyone a few thoughts about this special young man.
I first encountered David in my summer football camp when he was a rising junior at Southern Durham High School. As everyone who follows high school football here in the state knows, Southern Durham has traditionally played second fiddle to Northern Durham on the football field. I had seen David on film and he was receiving some interest from recruiters regionally, but there was considerable discussion along the lines of "can this guy be a quarterback at the collegiate level?" The reason for this question was because David did not "look" like a quarterback. When we met that day in camp we weighed him in at somewhere around 250 pounds. Now remember, this was somewhere around 1994, well before any jumbo sized quarterbacks had taken center stage.
His high school films were almost comical in that physically it truly was a man among boys. No one could tackle him. It would routinely take three or more defenders to get him on the ground. Consequently, Southern Durham began to win some football games. David was what coaches call "country strong". He had not lost all of his baby fat and was still developing physically when we had our first get together in the football camp.
I was anxious to get him outside and put him through the paces so to speak. I wanted to watch him move, I wanted to see the ball come out of his hand, I wanted to interact with him in all the ways quarterback coaches and quarterbacks do on a day-to-day basis.
I would interject here that the relationship between quarterback and quarterback coach is without a doubt one of the most intimate relationships in all of sport. It extends well off of the football field. As a coach, you have to decide if you can literally turn your football team over to this young man at some point on his career.
When a football comes off of a high school quarterback's hand that has college potential it has a certain look and spin that experienced quarterback coaches can identify. When a football comes off of a college quarterback's hand that has pro potential, an experienced quarterback coach can identify that as well. Let's put it this way folks, the very first throw that David threw for me that day, it wasn't college potential that I saw, it was pro potential, no doubt about it. You could HEAR the ball cut through the air. Just a couple of years previous to this, I was used to HEARING the football come off of a young man's hand by the name of Jeff Blake. Same ball, same sound, same pace, same accuracy.
It was hard to contain my excitement. Long story short, I offered Dave a scholarship in that camp and then held my breath for a year and a half until he signed his Letter of Intent. As to the other parts of the evaluation process mentioned previously, I would simply make the following comments: This young man had a sweet spirit to him on every level. Smart, tough, durable, even-tempered, willing and able to lead vocally and by example. These kinds of guys are hard to come by. As we all know, he went on to break almost every record in the book at East Carolina and was drafted in the 4th round by the Jacksonville Jaguars where he went on to have an outstanding career.
I will leave you with one war story that stands out in my mind among a hundred that I could choose from.
Most football fans here in North Carolina are familiar with the game ECU played in Carter-Finley Stadium against the Miami Hurricanes. There were about four minutes left in that game and we needed a touchdown to win it. We had taken possession somewhere around our own 20-yard line and had managed a first down. So with the ball on our 30-yard line, Miami called a time out to try to slow down our momentum. Dave came over to the sideline and we were talking play calls and timeout strategies for this final drive. When we got through with that conversation, I looked this young man in the eye and said "David you have proven to everyone here tonight that you can play with the best in the nation. What we are getting ready to find out is can you BEAT the best in the nation?"
Well we found out he could indeed beat the best. His execution, leadership. confidence and accuracy took us 70 yards to a winning touchdown, capped off by a beautiful throw on a shallow crossing route to seal the deal. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with special young man.