WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – Pierre Garçon said he knows exactly what he has to do.
“I have to step up my game and help balance our offense out,” he recently told reporters.
That’s because the Indianapolis Colts are pretty much out of options. The team lost its two best receivers to injuries, as tight end Dallas Clark is out for the season with an injured wrist, and wide receiver Austin Collie is expected to be out for several weeks recovering from thumb surgery.
Now, the defending American Football Conference champions are counting on Garçon to become quarterback Peyton Manning’s favorite target, beginning against the visiting Houston Texans on Monday Night Football.
But Garçon, 24, isn’t at optimal health. He’s been hampered by a series of leg injuries after emerging as one of the team’s biggest stars a year ago, when he caught 11 passes for more than 150 yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Jets in the conference championship game that sent the Colts to the Super Bowl.
Garçon, who finished with 47 catches for 765 yards and four touchdowns last year, has 14 catches for 214 yards and a touchdown through six games this season.
Garçon, at 6 feet and 210 pounds, will have to persevere through pain so the Colts’ Super Bowl aspirations don’t become corralled.
Fortunately for Garçon, running through difficulties has been his trademark since he caught his first pass.
Garçon said he draws inspiration from his mother, a Haitian immigrant who worked two jobs, which included picking tangerines, to provide for her family. Garçon’s mother, father and three older sisters were born in Haiti, but they immigrated to the United States a few months before he was born in 1986 in Carmel, N.Y.
The family moved to Florida following Garçon’s freshman year in high school. But Garçon struggled in the classroom and on the field at John I. Leonard High in Greenacres.
It appeared his football career was over.
But then he got a call from a football coach at a college in the middle of nowhere. Actually, a little north of nowhere: Northfield, Vt. He was offered a chance to play at Norwich University, where he traded his board shorts for a winter jacket and headed more than 1,520 miles north to play for a small, private military college.
A year later, Garçon transferred to Mount Union, one of the country’s best Division-III schools. In Ohio, everything clicked. He scored 64 touchdowns en route to earning All-American honors in 2006 and 2007 before being drafted in the sixth round by the Colts in the 2008 National Football League Draft.
His reward: a four-year contract worth US$1.796 million.
Garçon’s professional career – on the field – didn’t start the way he envisioned. He made just four catches for 23 yards in 14 games as a rookie in 2008. But just as he did in college, Garçon has persevered to carve a niche in the National Football League.
Garçon, however, has not forgotten his family’s roots. Garçon has supplied his dozens of family members in Haiti with food and medicine since the nation was rocked by an earthquake this past January. He also wears a Haitian headband and displays the country’s flag after big wins.
But can he lead the Colts back to the Super Bowl where they can claim their second title in the past five years?
“It’s understanding what we are trying to do and knowing what’s going on out there,” he said.