The path to victory in the Fleet’s first season has come by ground. Mike Martz has one of the top rushing offenses in the AAF, thanks to two of the league’s top running backs.
Two backs that already knew what each other was capable of before they became teammates.
"We were talking about this actually, we never would have thought this would happen," Ja'Quan Gardner said.
As the star for Division II Azusa Pacific, Terrell Watson ran all over the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. In 2013 and 2014 he was named the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. But he wasn’t the league’s only dominant rusher.
When Watson was a senior Ja’Quan Gardner was just starting his own impressive career for conference rival Humboldt State.
Gardner rushed for 2,266 yards as a sophomore – earning the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year crown in 2015. He went on to win it again two years later.
So the two Fleet teammates were the GNAC’s offensive MVP in four out of five years. They also put their names all over the conference’s record books. Watson held on to some, like his career average of 148 yards per game. Others Gardner eclipsed – thanks to over 5,400 career yards.
"No way I did not know he broke some of my records," Watson said in surprise during our interview. "Wow that’s impressive, good job."
Now they combine for a potent one-two punch. The undersized but elusive Gardner leads the league in rushing. Watson, is a bruising change of pace for the Fleet – with the 8th most yards in the AAF.
"I learn so much stuff from him, and I try to teach him stuff that I know from the NFL and whatnot," Watson said. "So it’s cool that we can just bounce ideas off each other."
Once rivals who admired each other’s abilities from a distance – now teaming up as one of the league’s most potent combos.
"We’ve just been having a ball and just want to keep rolling," Gardner added.