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Read Henry Hinton's feature story on veteran Hollywood actress and ECU alum Beth Grant in Bonesville Magazine.

Henry's Highlights
Thursday, November 4, 2004

By Henry Hinton

'Beer Truck' primed for shot on big stage



All David Garrard has hoped for is a chance to show that he can be a starter in the NFL and have an affect on his team equal to that of his college years at East Carolina.

It looks like he finally has his chance.

Replay Wednesday's Talk of The Town with Henry Hinton: Select clip

Being a back-up quarterback in the NFL can be a thankless job: long practices and film sessions followed by long Sunday afternoons as nothing more than a sideline observer. But as the back-up you are always one snap away from being the starter.

That is exactly where Garrard finds himself — maybe. In last Sunday’s 20-6 loss at Houston, Jacksonville Jaguars starter Byron Leftwich left the game after a leg injury. Garrard came in for a series but Leftwich finished the game, complaining only of a sore knee.

On Monday team physicians did an MRI on Leftwich and found the injury to be more serious than originally thought. While the injury is a knee strain, the original prognosis was that Leftwich could be out 4-6 weeks.

Immediately Garrard got the adrenaline rush that was a sure sign that he was about to get his big break. Leftwich has been quoted in the Jacksonville media that he will be ready to play through the pain when the Jags take the field for their next game with the Detroit Lions a week from Sunday, but smart money says it will be Garrard under center instead.

Even if Leftwich is able to go, there is a question of how effective he could be, particularly since he threw a costly post-injury interception late in the Houston game. The pick was run back for a score, sealing the Jags’ fate in Reliant Stadium.

With an AFL South leading 5-3 record, Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio will want to do everything possible to get a win over Detroit on November 14. He will not jeopardize any chance at the post-season at this point.

As for Garrard, in an appearance on the Bonesville Power Hour on Talk 1070 AM on Wednesday night, he said he is ready.

Replay Wednesday's Bonesville Power Hour, featuring special guests David Garrard and Noah Brindise: Select clip

“Everything is going good as far as me working out with the first team,” said Garrard. “Byron (Leftwich) is hoping for a good report from one of the doctors on whether he will be back in a short amount of time or a longer time. Until then I’ll be starting in his place just trying to pick up some of the pieces where he left off and just try to keep things going.”

This potential opportunity could be right on time for Garrard, who holds nearly every quarterback record at ECU, including 10,238 yards in total offense (second in Conference USA history behind Chris Redman), 9,029 yards passing (also second in league history), 666 completions and 60 touchdown passes.

Garrard also accounted for 81 touchdowns in his ECU career, including the 21 he achieved running the ball. His huge frame was an imposing challenge for defensive backs once he got past the line of scrimmage. In short, he was a potential tackler's worst nightmare.

In his second year in Jacksonville, Garrard is ready to prove he belongs in a starting NFL job. Last season, playing behind the highly compensated Leftwich, Garrard appeared in just two games, completing nine of 12 passes for 86 yards.

Garrard has been the focus of a band of disgruntled Jacksonville fans this season who have wanted Leftwich benched in spite of the starter’s successes on the field. PUT GARRARD IN tee shirts have cropped up at home games and in area sporting goods shops.

An unexpected off-season battle with Crohn’s Disease, an inflammation of the small intestines, nearly sidetracked the season for Garrard. Successful surgery in June appears to have taken care of the problem.

“Right now I’m totally free of Crohn’s,” Garrard said. “After the surgery, they cleared me of it 100 per cent. I’m feeling good and my body is functioning just fine. Back to my nice trim 245, so I’m back to the 'Beer Truck,' ” a reference to a nick-name former ECU coach Steve Logan hung on him during his college years.

Garrard has one more year on his contract with the Jaguars and is aware that he could be considered trade bait if he plays well during this stretch of upcoming games. Some NFL coaches, including Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden, have doled out praise after watching Garrard, particularly in pre-season games.

“I’m human so when somebody gives you compliments you want to take it for what it’s worth, but I try not to read into it too much,” says Garrard. “There are a lot of coaches and players out there that say things just to get leverage. It’s a business.”

However, Garrard knows there will never be a more opportune chance to showcase his talents than now. The timing could not be better for a guy trying to break through as a starter. But he shrugs off any talk of the future, instead willing only to focus on the situation at hand.

“I have to just concentrate on my job right now and that is to play the Detroit Lions in a couple of weeks,” he says. “That is really where my focus is right now. I just want to be able to perform and get this team a win.”

For thousands of Pirate fans who have fresh memories of his days wearing the No. 9 purple uniform, Garrard's opportunity serves as a chance to pull for a member of the family to succeed in the big time.


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02/23/2007 10:14:10 AM

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