As East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden shatters school passing records, seemingly every week, someone has been watching and admiring from afar.
David Garrard once held a lot of the ECU records. He’s still the leader in career passing yards – for now.
Carden is closing in.
“Oh, I’m happy for him” Garrard said this week. “He can make all the passes and has great receivers. He’s mobile. He has all the tools, runs the offense so well and seems to be a bright guy.
“That’s great; I want him it keep it rolling.”
Especially this week, against North Carolina.
Growing up in Durham, Garrard said he was always in the midst of UNC fans. Family, friends, there was a lot of light blue.
“They might be all about East Carolina when we played Carolina, then it was right back to the blue again,” he said, laughing. “The only thing you can do to shut ’em up at home is to beat Carolina.”
Garrard had his chance in 2001, but ECU lost to the Tar Heels 24-21 in Chapel Hill. But the Pirates blasted the Heels 55-31 in Chapel Hill last year and Carden was a big part of the victory, flexing a bicep – with an ECU tattoo – to celebrate.
Carden was flexing again last week. The Pirates, coming off a tough loss at South Carolina, went into Blacksburg, Va., into Virginia Tech’s Lane Stadium and won 28-21.
“A big win, a huge win,” Garrard said. “ECU has gone to Blacksburg a lot of times and not gotten out with a win. Everybody is excited. I know I’m excited.”
Just check out Garrard’s Twitter timeline. Among his @davidgarrard9 tweets:
“ECU got a squad boss!”
“ECU is no joke this year bro!!”
“Keep it rollin Pirates!!”
Carden, a 6-2, 221-pound senior from Houston, was 23-of-47 passing for 427 yards and three TDs against the Hokies, leaving Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer to say, “I don’t think anyone throws it better than he does.”
Carden became the ECU leader in career TD passes (63) and completions (741), moving past Dominique Davis, and now has 8,286 career passing yards. Only Garrard has more with 9,029.
In four years as a starter (1998-2001) Garrard broke 28 school passing and total offense records. He was the first to pass for more than 400 yards in a game – 414 against Memphis in 1998 – and his 60 career TD passes set a new standard for ECU quarterbacks.
Garrard then began an NFL career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In nine years with the Jags, he passed for more than 16,000 yards and 89 touchdowns, appearing in the 2009 Pro Bowl.
Garrard, 36, has not appeared in an NFL game since 2010. But he still lives in Jacksonville, Fla., continues to train and said he’s hoping the phone will ring. Some NFL team, he said, might need an experienced quarterback this year.
As for Carden, Garrard said he has the ability, physical makeup and maturity to make it in the NFL. Garrard was a big guy – 6-1 and 236 pounds – who could be light on his feet when he needed to and could rifle passes with accuracy: He had 18 TD throws and just three interceptions in the 2007 season.
“I think Shane will make a good pro quarterback,” Garrard said. “Coming out from under center and the pro style offense will be different for him, although the NFL is trending toward the college style and the shotgun. From what I’ve seen, he could probably be a little better with his footwork.
“You can complete a lot of passes in college. It’s definitely harder in the NFL, where the defense is so much tighter. You can rely on your athleticism in college, but in the pros a, lot of it is timing and being deadly accurate. And, being able to come through in the clutch.”
Garrard paused, adding, “Carden has shown he can do that.”
After Virginia Tech rallied from a 21-0 hole to tie the Pirates 21-21 late in the fourth quarter, Carden passed to Cam Worthy for 31 and 28 yards, then scored on a 1-yard run with 16 seconds left. Ball game.
“One thing that was kind of overlooked was the defense,” Garrard said. “They were making some big plays on the ball. If they can continue doing that and Carden can continue the magic he had against Virginia Tech. ”
Better keep an eye on Garrard’s Twitter timeline.