David Garrard, former QB1 for the Jacksonville Jaguars, lost his mom to breast cancer when he was only 16.
“I was only 14 when she was diagnosed, and I had never heard of cancer. I certainly had no idea of the pain it caused,” says Garrard. “I had an older brother and a little sister, and we would go with my mom to her chemo and radiation treatments. We’d play in the hospital waiting room or just hang out by the car and wait for her. She’d be so tired and stay in bed, so we all picked up the slack and helped. She always did so much for us. When she got sick and we started taking care of ourselves, we had an even greater respect for all she did. She went through two years of painful treatments, and I was only 16 when she passed.”
During that time, his oldest brother had already left home and was driving a rig. As their mother became weaker, he stayed closer to home and helped pay the bills and keep the three younger children on the straight and narrow.
David looks back on how they were just 14-16-year-old kids hanging out at their mom’s car waiting for her to finish treatment. “We were young, but we were at an age where we could fend for ourselves. Now my kids are 3, 4 and 9, and it touches my heart. What would happen if they only had their mom and she had cancer?”
“My mother had a lot of faith, and it poured down to us,” David says. “I know right from wrong, and I was always respectful. That’s how my mother was, and I wanted to keep her legacy going. I knew I had an opportunity to go to college, but I didn’t know if it was Division 2 or Division 1. I didn’t want to mess that up for her, so I continued to do the right thing for her, knowing she was always there cheering me on.” Garrard was named All-American choice by Prep Stars and rated the Best High School Quarterback in North Carolina. He got a full ride to East Carolina University, and his brothers and sister would come watch him play. “We were together as a family during my games.”
In addition to the impact breast cancer has had on his family, David suffers from Crohn’s disease, which severely affects the abdomen and bowels. He established the David Garrard Foundation, in honor of his mother Shirley Garrard, to help the children of single moms struggling with breast cancer and offer assistance to children with Crohn’s. “Whenever I attend events or camps for kids with Crohn’s, they don’t ask me the usual questions other kids ask like, ‘what kind of car do I drive’ or ‘how big is my house?’ They ask me when I’m going to find a cure for Crohn’s.”
David and his wife, Mary, to whom he proposed before a Jaguars 2002 pre-season game on the stadium jumbotron, own two Retro Fitness franchises in Jacksonville and are in their second year as the Official Personal Trainers of the 26.2 with DONNA.
Garrard was drafted by the Jaguars in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft and served as the team’s starting quarterback from 2007 to 2010. Now, he and his wife focus on helping people get healthy, making healthy people healthier and making survivors healthy again. Together, the Garrards use his Foundation and fitness clubs to focus attention on and help support children who are suffering and struggling due to the effects of disease.
TapImmune is proud to feature NFL great David Garrard as the October Spotlight.