One of ECU’s most decorated football players, New York Jets quarterback David Garrard, decided to hang up the cleats on May 15.
Unfortunately, Garrard’s hand had been forced by his recurring knee problems. The Miami Dolphins parted with the quarterback in September 2012 because of the amount of time he would miss as a result of knee surgery.
Garrard will retire a Jet, despite never playing a game with the team. His knee issues—this time in the form of swelling—have marred his ability on the field.
Nevertheless, Pirate fans will always have a special place in their hearts for Garrard.
The 240-pound quarterback was a driving force in the Pirates’ unbelievable 1999 season. Garrard’s offensive prowess, which still holds many of ECU’s records, led the team to wins over the likes of West Virginia, North Carolina State, South Carolina and the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes.
The Pirates vs. Hurricanes showdown was scheduled to take place at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, but damage from a hurricane (ironically enough) forced the game to be moved to Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh—in addition to stranding the team in South Carolina from their game a week prior.
Miami had manufactured a commanding 20-3 lead that seemed insurmountable. However, ECU had other plans.
Before the touchdown drive that capped off their comeback victory, head coach Steve Logan recalls speaking with Garrard on the sideline.
"David, you have proven to everyone here tonight that you can play with the best in the nation,” said Logan. “What we are getting ready to find out is can you BEAT the best in the nation?"
Garrard found Keith Stokes in the end zone in the final minutes to win the game 27-23.
After graduating in 2001, Garrard was drafted in the fourth round by the Jaguars. When he was drafted, he was slated to become the team’s starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Things changed when an office shakeup in 2003 left the Jaguars with a new general manager. James Harris made the call to draft Marshall signal-caller Byron Leftwich with the seventh-overall pick.
Leftwich’s 2005 season was cut short by a knee injury in Week 11. With Garrard at the helm, the Jaguars won four of their last five games of the season, but were decisively defeated 28-3 by the New England Patriots in the AFC wild card game.
As Leftwich was continuously plagued with injuries, head coach Jack Del Rio named Garrard the starting quarterback in Week 8 of the 2006 season. He went 5-5 and the Jaguars missed the playoffs.
It seemed like it was a mistake, but Del Rio’s call paid dividends the following season. A stunning preseason performance cemented his role as starter and left Leftwich with a pink slip.
Garrard’s gridiron heroics led the Jaguars to an 11-5 record. He missed three games with a sprained ankle but finished the season with 18 touchdowns, 2,509 yards and only three interceptions, which tied the NFL record.
Down 29-28 with 1:56 to go in their AFC wild card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Garrard set the Jaguars up for a game-winning field goal. He ran for 32 yards on 4th and 2 to put them in range for the field goal that gave them a 31-29 win.
Garrard grew up in Durham and played for Southern High School. It was there that Logan met Garrard for the first time. Logan ended up offering him a scholarship, but he was already looking much further ahead.
“Let's put it this way,” said Logan. “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.”