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Tracking the Stars of the Future

Football Recruiting Report
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

By Sammy Batten

RECRUITING THUMBNAILS:  2006    2007    2008

ECU undeterred by prep star's injury

By Sammy Batten
All rights reserved.


Athletic quarterback Womack ECU-bound
Pirates land Cape Fear's Brown
Breakaway back Spencer finally makes the call
Joyner reinforces the ties that bind
SE Guilford star brings versatility to Pirates
Fleet Gryphon running route to ECU
ECU breaks through with athletic family
ECU undeterred by prep star's injury

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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 Id call him, too. They stuck with me, and didnt back off on their offer.

ECUs 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 lower leg.

He was chasing the quarterback and a guy peeled back on him, Jordan-Matthews coach Marty Scotten said. It wasnt 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).

Im counting the hours now, Garner said about discarding the crutches. Im doing good. Ive been in rehab about three weeks now. Im in there three times a week. The doctors say everything is going good and Im going to be 100 percent.

The injury interrupted what has been a relatively brief football career for Garner.

Because of weight restrictions in youth football, Garner didnt 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 following year.

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. Hes our team captain, and hes still around some. But its not the same when youre not playing. It was disappointing for everybody, and I hate it for him. But Im 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.

[View thumbnail sketches of other players verbally committed to join ECU's recruiting class of 2008.]

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10/24/2007 01:21:54 AM


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