PIRATE SUPERSIZED QUARTERBACK: East Carolina Quarterback David Garrard
East Carolina quarterback David Garrard is proving that the bigger they are, the better they play.
By Kim Goss
Published: Winter 2001
It’s expected that football linemen will be big. But when you see a starting quarterback who stands 6-foot-1, tips the scales at a lean 252 pounds and can lift 319 pounds overhead, you start asking questions about the evolution of the human species. That is exactly what is happening at East Carolina University, where the school’s gridiron heroes are being led by the biggest, strongest and one of the best quarterbacks that has ever played in Conference USA: David Garrard.
Now a senior with an academic major in management, Garrard attended Southern Durham High School in North Carolina, where he was responsible for 9,023 yards of total offense and 113 touchdowns. When he was a junior, Garrard weighed 235, and most recruiters decided he was just too heavy to play quarterback. Tennessee envisioned him as a tight end, and North Carolina and North Carolina State were both interested but were noncommittal about the quarterback position. Garrard finally decided on East Carolina, as Head Coach Steve Logan promised to give him a fair shot at the quarterback position. “I saw myself fitting in here,” says Garrard.
If Coach Logan had to endure any criticism for allowing Garrard to challenge for quarterback, there were even more doubts when he arrived at school. Thanks to nutritional practices after his senior season that could be described as “undisciplined,” Garrard suited up for his first practice weighing 269 pounds! Nevertheless, Logan made good on his promise.
Because East Carolina was solid in seasoned quarterbacks when he arrived, Garrard was able to redshirt his freshman year. “I knew they had a senior quarterback,” says Garrard. “I wanted to be red-shirted, and I knew I would have a chance to fight for the starting job.” He was right, and was willing to listen to his coaches and work hard to achieve his goals.
“When David came into the program his coaches let him know what he needed to do to be an effective player,” says Coach Jim Whitten, Director of Strength and Conditioning. As for changing Garrard’s eating habits, Whitten says the school’s exercise science and health and nutrition departments provided the promising talent with sound nutritional guidance.
The extra time helped Garrard get accustomed to the pace and power of Division I football, to learn the offensive system, and to accept the fact that he didn’t have to try to finish every meal with a full stomach. He dropped about 30 pounds, and the following year he moved into the starting role. During the second half of the season Garrard broke 16 freshman passing records.
In 1999 Garrard continued his success, establishing himself as an impressive offensive weapon. He passed for 2,359 yards, and his 259.27 yards per game average in total offense ranked 21st in the nation. He was also ranked 40th in pass efficiency. Garrard’s success enabled the Pirates to average 28 points a game, post a 9-3 record, and earn an invitation to the Mobile Alabama Bowl.
His success didn’t stop there, and at the end of his junior year Garrard ranked number two in career passing yards for East Carolina with 6,782, and number two in completions (502) and touchdown passes. He was also ranked second in the team in rushing with 358 yards, a performance that included five rushing touchdowns (for 19 total), and he moved up to 32nd in the country for pass efficiency. The Pirates went 8-4 that year and earned another post-season trip, this time to the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl.
Garrard concluded the 2000 season in style by being named MVP in their bowl game, leading East Carolina with 229 yards passing and a touchdown run in their 40-27 victory over Texas Tech. Doubts about the ability of the big man to play were long gone. Now that Garrard is a mountain of power muscle at 252 pounds, the talk is about what additional school records he will break and his potential in the professional ranks.
In contrast to many quarterbacks, Garrard has the size to run up the middle and break a few tackles to make extra yardage when necessary. That’s good news for the Pirates, but bad news for the defensive players who get in his way. Remarking on Garrard’s ability to punish defenders with his runs, Logan compared it to having “a beer truck run over you.”
In addition to appreciating Garrard’s physical gifts and skills, offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach Doug Martin is especially impressed by Garrard’s coachability and positive attitude, and notes that he “shows up for practice every day wanting to be a better player.”
The Numbers Game
Success in football can often be linked to discipline in the weightroom, and Garrard has the numbers to prove it. He benches 320, squats 450, cleans 295, push jerks 319 pounds (145 kilos), and has a 31 ½-inch vertical leap without a step. When asked what his favorite lift is, Garrard replied, “It would probably be the push jerk. There are not a lot of exercises in the weight room that I feel I’m better at than a lot of guys, but the push jerk is the one I excel in—and there’s not a lot of quarterbacks push jerking 319.”
Although he weighs more than most major household appliances, Garrard’s eating problems are no longer a concern to the coaching staff. Says Whitten, “I don’t know what his bodyfat percentage is, but if you look at this guy without a shirt on, there’s not much fat. The guy is as lean as lean gets.”
In addition to being a leader on the field, Whitten says Garrard is proving to be a role model in the weightroom and in other areas. “David is not really an outspoken guy, but here’s a quarterback who can lift some of the weights the stronger guys can, and just by size alone he stands out and sets a positive example.” Perhaps part of his work ethic can be attributed to his role model of choice, Lawrence Taylor. “Taylor dominated the game,” says Garrard. “He showed everybody that if you work hard every play, good things will happen.”
As for special conditioning drills for quarterbacks, Whitten likes to keep his program simple. “We don’t try to get too position-specific, but in the summer we focus on all types of change-of-direction drills. David is a great leader in this area, and he helps keep everyone organized.”
One special event held in the off season is the Pirates’ annual strong man competition, which takes place over several days each summer and is similar to the show seen on ESPN. David loves the challenge. “The strong man competition is a lot of fun just because it’s something that’s not football related, and you can be competitive with the other guys on the team,” says Garrard. “It just shows them that, sure, I’m the quarterback, but I can do a lot of the things that you guys can do . . . even though they think that all we do is drop back and throw the football and we don’t get tired or have to be as good athletically as they are. It’s great just being able to get out there and compete and show them what I can do physically.”
Although this is Whitten’s first year at East Carolina, he says there was originally some concern about how he would work with a senior quarterback and, for that matter, his senior-dominated team. “With any new situation, there are always some differences in philosophies, but the basic premise is that we want guys to get into the best condition they can,” says Whitten. “My number one goal is to let the players know that even though we do things a little bit differently from the previous staff, we’re going to achieve the same results and we’re going to get better and better—we want to convince them that they’re in good hands.”
One factor that will make Whitten’s job a bit easier is the construction of East Carolina’s new strength training facility. The current weightroom is 6,000 square feet. The new weightroom, part of a 52,000-square-foot multipurpose center, will cover 22,000 square feet. The room will include a four-lane, 50-yard sprint track, a 20-yard x 20-yard agility area, plyometric area,