“It appeared to me this young man could win these races,” Kehres said. “But he wanted to just be up near the front and not be a big show off. I liked that.”
Garcon’s career took off immediately. The Purple Raiders won national championships in 2005 and 2006, and Garcon not only excelled on the field, but he impressed off it. “He was so hungry to develop his skills,” Kehres said.
But what, realistically, could be the end game?
“The NFL, it seemed distant,” Garcon said. “But it was always what I was working on. You want to be at the top level of what you want to do. Some dreams are more realistic than others.”
As Garcon racked up receiving yards, often playing just half a game because he and his team were so dominant, the dream was becoming possible, even if he didn’t realize it. NFL teams will make sure they find talent no matter how obscure it might seem. As a senior, Garcon drew some scouts to little Alliance, Ohio.
“The general rule of thumb when you’re thinking about taking a player from a Division III school: He has to be a guy who dominates at that level of competition,” said former Colts general manager Bill Polian. “And Pierre was the definition of that.”
After 3,363 receiving yards and 47 touchdowns in his three seasons, Garcon assembled a group of family and friends not for the first day of the draft, but for rounds three through seven. “I wasn’t expecting,” he said. “I was just hoping.”
Two hundred four players had been selected — 27 of them wide receivers, including Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas to Washington — when the Colts’ spot came up in the sixth round. Garcon’s phone rang. It was Indianapolis Coach Tony Dungy. Smiles all around.
“I wouldn’t say I was confident,” Garcon said. “I was just trying to learn.”
A season ago, only one Redskins wide receiver caught a pass, turned upfield and ran into the end zone. It happened in the final game of the season, “and it was one yard,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. According to Stats LLC, the Redskins finished 20th in the league in yards after the catch per reception, a crippling state of affairs for Shanahan’s offense. Without yards after the catch, pass plays must be designed to go into the end zone in order to score. Without yards after the catch, an eight-yard pass is an eight-yard gain – not a 20- or 30-yard gain.
But on the Redskins’ 12th playfrom scrimmage this year, in the season opener at New Orleans, quarterback Robert Griffin III dropped back from his 12-yard line and found Garcon streaking across the middle. He caught the ball 16 yards downfield. The other 72 he covered on his own.