What Happened to David Garrard?
It’s never easy to play the quarterback position at the NFL level. Couple that with being abnormally large for the position AND dealing with Crohn’s disease, and you have the very underrated career of David Garrard.
What makes Garrard’s college and NFL career so interesting is nothing came easy for him. He seemed to be a tight end who was actually playing QB. Remember, he was around 240 pounds when he stepped on East Carolina University’s campus. But, as we later found out, there simply wasn’t anything that Garrard couldn’t do.
The only issue was his ball placement and accuracy.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. When looking at the career of Garrard, you always think of two words: NEVER QUIT. Garrard wasn’t the fastest, and he certainly looked too big to play QB. The former Jaguars quarterback sometimes reminded me of Jared Lorenzen. But when the Jacksonville Jaguars needed a big play, Garrard would give you that Cinderella moment: Coming out of nowhere and then getting the job done. And although his career probably wasn’t as good as Mark Brunell’s, he still is one of the all-time greatest Jaguar players.
The Jacksonville Jaguars’ YouTube account lists Garrard as No. 23 all-time as a Jaguar player, and I disagree with that. He should be much higher on that list, especially since he didn’t always have the most talent around him. But let’s not delay any further. As FlemLo Raps would say, “This is what happened to David Garrard.”
Garrard began playing football at around 8 years old. And to no surprise to many people watching this video, many of his coaches didn’t see his future at quarterback.
When Garrard attended Neal Middle School in Durham, North Carolina, his coaches instead put him at fullback. He was so big that he was basically the Mike Alstot of middle school football, as he pretty much carried the opposing defenders down the field. And according to Garrard, he didn’t mind playing fullback.
“I was happy with the arrangement because I got the majority of the carries,” said Garrard. “I never even thought about playing quarterback.”
In fact, it was his preteen and early-teenage-year teammates who actually vouched for him to play quarterback. To test his ability to effectively play the position, his coaches would line up a handful of players 15 yards away from Garrard and tell him to zip the ball to them. After easily completing the passes, the coaches told him to put even more umph on his throws. And according to Garrard’s ego, he “lit it up” on his next several passes. And from that moment on, he was a future NFL quarterback.
But Garrard playing the QB position still came with its set of drawbacks. Garrard entered the NFL when Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick were just getting their feet wet as a black quarterback in the NFL. And for people who weren’t born in the early 2000s, it was very much a stereotype that coaches and GMs would stay away from drafting African-American quarterbacks. In essence, drafting a black quarterback came with its controversies. Remember when Eagles fans booed at the Donovan McNabb draft selection? It’s obviously dumb to point out a purely racism problem since Randall Cunningham, Dante Culpepper, Vick, McNabb and others all got their shot at QB, but black quarterbacks were still a very small number in the NFL when Garrard was a rookie.
But being an African-American quarterback was not the reason why teams didn’t draft him. Rather, it was a variety of factors. First of all, being from a mid-major school certainly didn’t help David Garrard’s draft stock. Interestingly enough, Garrard actually played against Byron Leftwich during their college years. Their lone matchup was an amazing college football bowl game where Leftwich’s Marshall team somehow came back down by 30 points and defeated Garrad’s East Carolina squad 64-61 in double-overtime. This memorable GMAC Bowl Game was a preview of both quarterbacks playing together on the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Garrard would get the last laugh by taking away Leftwich’s QB job.
Secondly, while Garrard’s East Carolina Pirates were very competitive during his time in Greenville, North Carolina, they still weren’t a dominant squad. This is important to note because one of the reasons why mid-major quarterbacks like Zach Wilson can rise on the draft board is because their team was undefeated for most of the season. The old adage “You are what your record says you are” can sometimes define how valuable your quarterback play is to the team’s overall success. In layman’s terms, Wilson’s undefeated BYU squad until their loss to Coastal Carolina proved to some NFL draft scouts that he’s the real deal at QB. Garrard you might ask? His best season at East Carolina was 9-3, which included ECU defeating the No. 13-ranked Miami Hurricanes that season. A very good record, but it was still a far cry from Alex Smith’s undefeated season when he played quarterback at the University of Utah.
Regardless of the reason why Garrard fell in the draft, the Jaguars took a chance on him in the fourth round. And they were rewarded with a fairly decent quarterback.
Despite being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in January of 2004, the former ECU Pirate ended up getting honored for the 2009 Pro Bowl, won a playoff game, and even finished with just over 16,000 passing yards in his career.
If you’re not familiar with Crohn’s disease, here’s the SparkNotes summary of the illness. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the person’s digestive tract. This disease can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. While not usually life-threatening, this IBD can lead to kidney stones, inflammation of the liver, and inflammation of the eyes.
To sum up, it certainly isn’t easy playing the hardest position of the four major American sports and being malnourished. Thankfully for Garrard, Crohn’s was very treatable in 2004 and is even more treatable today. The way to generally treat Crohn’s is with immunosuppressants and steroids, although surgery might be required on a case-by-case basis. And that was the unfortunate case for Garrard, as he had to have surgery in June of 2004 to remove almost 12 inches of his intestines.
Despite that intensive surgery, Garrard ended up staying in the National Football League until 2013. And he did more than just stay in the NFL. He showed why he earned the starting job from head coach Jack Del Rio.
In the entire history of the Jaguars, only three quarterbacks have won a playoff game: Brunnell, Garrard, and Blake Bortles. It’s not the most impressive list of QBs, but it’s still obvious that Garrard had a much better NFL career than his former teammate in Leftwich.
Garrard flourished best when Del Rio allowed him to best utilize his dual-threat mentality. While his numbers aren’t very flashy, Garrard gave Jacksonville stability at the position once they had to move on from Mark Brunell.
Even with his so-so passing numbers, Garrard still led the NFL in third-down passer rating during the 2007 season. His 2007 Jaguars advanced to the Divisional Round, where they had to face off against the 16-and-0 New England Patriots. We all know how that game turned out, as the Patriots wouldn’t lose a single game that season until Super Bowl 42.
Garrard got the nickname “The Beer Truck” when he played at East Carolina University, and the name definitely suits him due to his enormous stature. He explains why he got that nickname:
But as good as Garrard was at times, he just wasn’t consistent enough to stay in the league. His QB rating never went above 81, and his last three years were very mediocre. His 2008 season, his third-to-last one in the NFL, saw him throw just 15 touchdown passes to 13 interceptions. His passer rating finished underneath 60. His 2009 season was even worse with a QB rating at 54.4, and although he showed flashes of greatness in 2010, his 23 TD passes to 15 interceptions proved to the Jags it was time to draft the future in Blaine Gabbert.
Gabbert turned out to be a bust, but it also turned out that the Jags still made the right decision in cutting Garard. The Beer Truck’s engine seemed to die out once he arrived in Miami. He had arthroscopic knee surgery during the 2012 training camp, and the Dolphins were forced to release him due to injury problems on September 4th.
In a span of three years from 2010-2013, Garrard suffered multiple knee injuries, as well as undergoing surgery on his herniated disk. He attempted a comeback with the New York Jets in 2013, but that inevitably fell through as he suffered through complications with knee swelling.
He retired as a Jaguar in March of 2015.
So what happened to Garrard? Well, he outplayed his original draft position. However, he showed at times why he lacked the arm talent and decision-making to become a star in professional football. His passes lacked touch at times, and he sometimes forced the ball in unnecessary tight windows.
However, Garrard’s life has been anything but unsuccessful. He’s currently a spokesman for 121 Financial Credit Union, and he’s a role model for kids at the Painted Turtle Camp. The Painted Turtle Camp is specifically made for kids having to endure the issues of living with Croh’s disease.
Garrard never became as good as Mark Brunell, but he was certainly a better QB than Leftwich and Bortles. But most importantly, Garrard overcame the problems of Crohn’s disease and being slightly big for the position. “The Beer Truck” might never have become the next coming of “Big Ben,” but I don’t think that Garrard has any regrets about his NFL career.
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