Former Humboldt State running back Ja’Quan Gardner debuted with the San Diego Fleet in front of a national television audience on Saturday night, and he didn’t disappoint.
The Fleet are one of eight teams to play in the Alliance of American Football (AAF), a new professional football league which played its first games on Saturday.
Gardner is one of two starting running backs for the Fleet, and saw substantial action early in the game.
The former Lumberjack broke free for runs of 25 and 13 yards in the second quarter, and had the commentators gushing at his moves, with Humboldt State getting a mention.
“Love that little stutter step at the end,” one said after Gardner’s first big gain.
“He’s been the star of this drive,” he added after another big run two plays later.
The Fleet lost a defensive game to the Commanders in San Antonio by a score of 15-6, in front of a crowd of 27,857.
The Fleet, who went away from the running game in the second half, were held to under 300 yards total offense, with quarterback Mike Bercovici completing 15 of 25 passes for 176 yards, while also getting sacked six times and throwing two interceptions.
The team is coached by Mike Martz, one of several big name head coaches associated with the new league, a list that also includes Steve Spurrier and Dennis Erickson.
The new league was founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, the latter of whom spent years building successful NFL franchises as an executive.
The owners insist they are not in competition with the NFL, but rather want to complement it while developing young talent.
It could be the perfect springboard for a player like Gardner, whose chances to prove himself at the NFL level are limited.
Gardner, who was signed by the San Francisco 49ers just before the NFL season only to be cut a few days later, certainly won’t have done his chances any harm with his first-half performance on Saturday night.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.