Some of the major colleges
recruiting Anthony Garner lost interest when the senior defensive
lineman broke his leg in the fourth game of the 2007 season.
The one school that
increased its contact with the 6-foot-1, 295-pounder from
Jordan-Matthews High in Siler City was East Carolina and its assistant
head and defensive backs coach, Rick Smith.
“When I broke my leg, they
were calling all the time to see if I was OK,’’ Garner said. “Coach
Smith would call me at least once a week, and I’d call him, too. They
stuck with me, and didn’t back off on their offer.’’
ECU’s loyalty has paid off
in the form of a verbal commitment from Garner, who becomes the eighth
member of the Pirates recruiting Class of 2008.
The Pirates were the first
to extend a scholarship offer to Garner in late August. About a week
later in a game against Southern Alamance he suffered a broken tibia in
his left leg. The tibia or shinbone is the larger bone of the two in the
“He was chasing the
quarterback and a guy peeled back on him,’’ Jordan-Matthews coach Marty
Scotten said. “It wasn’t a low hit or anything, but he broke the bone
right below the knee there.’’
Garner underwent surgery
in Chapel Hill to repair the leg about a week later. A plate and two
screws were inserted to help the bone heal. Now more than a month into a
rehabilitation process that is expected to last five to six months,
Garner is expected to make a full recovery. He is currently wearing a
brace on the knee, but is supposed to be cleared to walk without
crutches on Thursday (Oct. 25).
“I’m counting the hours
now,’’ Garner said about discarding the crutches. “I’m doing good. I’ve
been in rehab about three weeks now. I’m in there three times a week.
The doctors say everything is going good and I’m going to be 100
The injury interrupted
what has been a relatively brief football career for Garner.
Because of weight
restrictions in youth football, Garner didn’t begin honing his skills
until he was an eighth grader. He joined the middle school team where he
played offensive tackle.
During the course of that
first season, the middle-school coaches noticed that Garner had unusual
speed for a big man.
“They noticed I could run
and started letting me run the ball,’’ Garner said. “I ran tailback in
goal-line situations for the eighth-grade team.’’
That same speed led the
Jordan-Matthews High staff to move Garner to the defensive line the
“He was obviously very raw
when he got here,’’ Scotten said. “But you could tell even as a freshman
how talented he was.’’
Garner played on the
junior varsity as a freshman before becoming a full-time varsity starter
as a sophomore. He earned first-team All-Yadkin Valley 1-A Conference
honors as a junior when he registered 90 tackles, 23 tackles for losses
and 15 quarterback sacks for a team that finished 11-2.
Scotten said Garner worked
extremely hard over the summer to prepare for his senior season. He was
off to an excellent start before the injury, making eight sacks and 11
tackles for loss in four games.
"This year he had really
gotten into great condition,’’ Scotten said. “He went to some camps and
the coaches told him to lose some weight, so he lost about 20 pounds. He
was really quick and strong and was having a tremendous first three
games before the injury.
“We really miss him as a
player and for his leadership. He’s our team captain, and he’s still
around some. But it’s not the same when you’re not playing. It was
disappointing for everybody, and I hate it for him. But I’m glad he was
still able to get a scholarship offer.’’
Garner, who has also
played basketball and tennis during his athletic career at
Jordan-Matthews, was recruited to play defensive tackle or nose tackle
by the Pirates. He was able to check out his future team first-hand last
Saturday on his official visit to Greenville for the N.C. State game.
“I enjoyed it,’’ Garner
said. “It just proved I made the right decision. I followed my heart.’’
Garner is the first
lineman to commit to the Pirates. The first seven verbals were from
players who project as running backs, wide receivers or defensive backs.
thumbnail sketches of other players verbally committed to join ECU's
recruiting class of 2008.]