BW Quarterback Anthony Gardner Signs With Professional Football Team in France
By Jim Rodriguez, '11
BEREA, OHIO -- Recently graduated Baldwin Wallace University quarterback Anthony Gardner (Rocky River/ Lakewood St. Edward) has signed a professional football contract with Team Iron Mask in Cannes, France. He left for France on Sunday (January 10, 2010).
Gardner, who graduated in December with a degree in business administration and entrepenuership, recently ended a four-year career as one of the most prolific passers and all-around athletic QBs in school history. His first season in France starts on January 19.
“I’m going into this experience with an open mind,” said Gardner, who completed 170-of-273 passes for 62.3 percent for 1,773 yards and 12 touchdowns and ran for 370 yards in 91 attempts with three TD. “I look forward to be able to meet new people and experience the culture in Europe”
The opportunity for Gardner just came up within the last couple weeks as he worked with the help of Offensive Coordinator Zach Fletcher to land the role on the team in Europe.
"Coach Fletcher alerted me to the opportunities of playing in Europe," said Gardner, who was named All-Ohio Athletic Conference for the second straight year in 2009. "So, I went to his office a few weeks ago and we worked together to fill out the on-line application. Then it all happened very quickly.
"Last Monday (Jan. 4), I received a call from the owner/ manager of Iron Mask who said that the quarterback who was supposed to come from the United States had backed out of the opportunity, and he wanted to know if I was interested," continued Gardner. "I talked it over with Coach Fletcher and my parents and quickly agreed."
Gardner, who is no stranger to travel and a new experience, is excited about the opportunity to play football in France and have the chance to see the country and hopefully the rest of Europe.
“I jumped on the opportunity to continue my football career and see Europe as well," said Gardner with a big, wide smile. "I love traveling and I’m looking forward to the experience. It's the chance of a lifetime.”
Gardner was a two-time All-OAC
selection for the Yellow Jackets.
Gardner also traveled a bit before finding his way back to the west side of Cleveland at Baldwin Wallace. He transferred to BW from the University of Hawaii in the winter of 2005, sat out that spring with an injury that occurred as a senior in high school, and then transferred again to Ohio University in the summer of 2006. But after a short time in Athens, he knew the place that he wanted to play college football in Berea. So, he re-enrolled at BW before the fall semester began."
"I appreciate all of the opportunities that Coach Snell [Head Coach John Snell] and Coach Fletcher have given me to grow as both a student and football player," said Gardner. "I have enjoyed my experience at BW and don't regret not playing at Division I at all. I got a great education. I will be able to benefit from for a long time after I finish playing football. And, I got to play quaterback for four years in college. Not many other people have a chance to say that."
As a freshman and sophomore, Gardner played in 17-of-20 games and split time with Mickey Mental as the Yellow Jacket signal caller. By the end of that season, Gardner had earned the chance to be the fulltime starter as a junior. In his last two seasons, he blossomed into one of the best in the OAC and North Region of Div. III as he completed 360-of-571 passes for 4,091 yards and 26 TD and ran for 511 yards and eight more scores.
For his career, the two-time All-Ohio Athletic Conference player (2008 and 2009) and BW Ray. E. Watts Most Valuable Offensive Player (2009), completed 444-of-746 career passes for 5,258 yards and 34 touchdowns and ran for 828 yards and 10 more TD. Gardner’s 444 completions, 5,258 passing yards, 6,086 yards of total offense and 44 total TD rank third all-time in school history behind BW Hall of Famer John Koz (Lakewood) and former Yellow Jacket standout Dan Larlham (Walsh Jesuit). He additionally established several single-game records.
“I just love playing football and I loved my four years at BW,” said Gardner. "Now I get to continue that experience in France.
"I get a car, housing and a little bit of money each month," continued Gardner, as he was being interviewed at halftime of the BW and Muskingum University women's basketball game that was broadcast on SportsTime Ohio. "One real cool aspect is that I get to be part of the coaching staff for the French Junior National team (high school students). I am really looking forward to that experience. Maybe when I come back from France, I might go into coaching at either the high school level or maybe as an assistant or volunteer here at BW. I am really excited."
Gardner explained that he still doesn't have a lot of details about this opportunity, but promises to stay in touch with his BW family with updates.
"As soon as I get to France, get settled, meet with the coaching staff and front office, I will get back to you at BW and let you know all of the details," said Gardner. "But right now, I just don't know a lot about it. That's part of the experience and fun. But I promise to let everyone know how I'm doing."