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Pirate Notebook No. 285
Monday, October 16, 2006

By Denny O'Brien

Garrard still unspoiled

Success in the bigtime doesn't blur the loyalties and values of one of ECU's all-time greatest athletes

All Rights Reserved.


Denny O'Brien is a member of the 2006 voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien is also the editor of The Pirates' Chest, a senior writer for Bonesville Magazine and co-host of WNCT-AM Talk 1070's Game Day Countdown Show.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings, the season's first of which was released on Sunday.

Here is O'Brien's ballot for this week's Harris Poll, conducted by Harris Interactive:

 1. Ohio State
 2. Michigan
 3. West Virginia
 4. Southern Cal
 5. Louisville
 6. Texas
 7. Florida
 8. Tennessee
 9. California
10. Auburn
11. Notre Dame
12. Clemson
13. Arkansas
14. Georgia Tech
15. Nebraska
16. LSU
17. Boise State
18. Oregon
19. Rutgers
20. Wisconsin
21. Oklahoma
22. Missouri
23. Wake Forest
24. Boston College
25. Tulsa

Checking In:
Wake Forest (23), Boston College (24), Tulsa (25)

Checking Out:
Iowa, Georgia, Virginia Tech

Biggest Jump:
Rutgers, Wisconsin

Biggest Plunge:


David Garrard might possess a more hefty checkbook these days, but little else has changed with the always affable quarterback.

Despite the fame and fortune that is attached to the most glamorous profession in all of sports, deep down Garrard is still the same humble guy who shattered every important passing mark in the East Carolina record book.

It's that combination of humility and skill that has a plot reserved for No. 9 in the ECU Athletics Hall of Fame, and it also implants him as a lifelong favorite among fans.

This past Saturday marked Garrard's first appearance at an ECU game since his final outing in purple and gold.  Amid all the distractions of his return to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, he discovered a new element to the college game with which he previously had no first-hand experience — tailgating.

It didn't go unnoticed, either.

Garrard spent much of his Saturday chatting with fans and, yes, even penning his signature and posing for snapshots with anyone who asked.

There were many 'Thank you's' extended by admirers who still cling to the memories Garrard left with them.

But it wasn't only the fans who were reminiscing about the Pirates' glory years with D.G. under center. Garrard, himself, took a long stroll down memory lane, and says that historic 1999 season stands out above the rest.

"It was definitely the whole '99 season," Garrard said. "Just the way that season developed from the beginning.

"We went 5-0.  Knocking off Miami, staying in South Carolina for an extra week after a hurricane, with one pair of underwear. That's true. I mean, you go down there for one day, it's not something you need to bring a boatload of underwear to.

"The whole season, even the games that we lost, it was just an unbelievable season. And then to finish up with State at the end of the year, and to make the kind of announcement that I made before that game, telling them that we were going to smack them in the face and then send them home.  Coach Logan told me to wear every piece of equipment that I could find, because they were going to come gunning for me."

Garrard also reflected on memories that left a somewhat bitter taste in his mouth. The 2001 season immediately came to mind, which was the year the Pirates were expected to put it all together and perhaps even bust back into the nation's Top 10.

There was plenty of media attention centered on ECU during the preseason, and despite the glaring spotlight, Garrard says the increased focus the program received was nothing the Pirates couldn't handle.

"It definitely did make it a little tougher for us," Garrard said.  "But you know what, we were ready. We were always in every game.

"I think we were blowing people out in most of the games. We would always get too far up, and sometimes they would make the run on us and come back on us. It made it tough on us because we were trying to live up to the hype. We were trying to be that ECU team that finally put us on the map for real. We wanted to make a statement that year."

Fast forward to 2006, and Garrard is now making his statements in the National Football league as a quarterback with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He made a major one last season to other NFL teams seeking a solution to their quarterbacking future.

With Jacksonville starter Byron Leftwich on the mend, Garrard led the Jaguars to a 5-1 finish and into the playoffs. The postseason proved a bittersweet moment for Garrard, who had to surrender the reigns to the Jacksonville offense back over to Leftwich.

It was a controversial decision by Jags coach Jack Del Rio that was met with great criticism by both fans and the media, but Garrard graciously accepted it and never wavered in his support for his teammates. That attitude and leadership, along with his ineffable skills, is why many scouts contend that he could start for half of the league's teams.

It's also what has helped shape Garrard away from the playing field. He has always been a man who is strong on commitment, be it his family, church, local charity, or alma mater.

"Giving back to the Pirate Club has been something that has been something that is very important for me to do," Garrard said.  "I remember when I was in school, just thinking about some of the guys on the team who needed help in so many ways.

"Not really just the football team, but also tennis, baseball... all the other teams.  I definitely have to plug the tennis team with my wife being a former tennis player here at ECU. But it's something that is definitely important to me and my wife, so we try to give back as much as we can to the Pirate Club."

Garrard says he doesn't yet know what the future holds for his NFL career.  There is strong speculation that Jacksonville will eventually trade him to a team in need of a ready-made starter.

Whatever happens, Garrard says that he is ready for any pitch that life throws. And you can bet that he won't change his stance or alter his swing regardless of the scenario.

That's because Garrard will always remain true to his roots — and East Carolina played a hefty role in planting them.

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

Click here to dig into Denny O'Brien's Bonesville archives.

02/23/2007 02:03:27 AM

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