East grad returns to field as ball carrier for Victoria Texans
April 13, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated April 12, 2014 at 11:13 p.m.
The setting has changed, but the game remains the same.
Jonathan Garner is no longer playing running back for Victoria East at Memorial Stadium.
But the power, the moves, the determination and the passion for the game are evident whenever he carries the ball for the Victoria Texans of the Texas United Football Association.
"It's still fun and there's a lot of pressure on me because I'm one of the youngest dudes on the team," Garner said before the Texans' 36-8 win over the Texas Crusaders on Saturday night at Patti Welder Stadium. "I've got to step up and show them what I can really do."
Garner, 20, displayed the ability to run the ball from the moment he started playing in the Crossroads Youth Football League at Patti Welder Middle School and then at Victoria Memorial High School, before playing two seasons at East.
He's continued to produce for the Texans, who have a 5-0 record and are ranked No. 13 in the nation.
Garner rushed for a team-high 85 yards and scored on a 15-yard run against the Crusaders.
Garner played for the Texans after graduating from high school in 2012 and took a year off before returning this season.
"Jonathan is very energetic, and he never complains," said Texans head coach Kevin Black. "I know him from when he was smaller. For me, it was an experience that I've had before. Even as a young adult, he's still the same Jonathan. He's very upstanding and has a lot of respect. He'll do whatever you ask him."
Garner enjoyed playing football in high school.
One of the highlights of his career at East was a 75-yard touchdown run against eventual-state champion Lake Travis in the 2010 regional playoffs at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
"I think about it every day," he said. "I miss high school so much. I just liked the whole atmosphere. At the East-West game, I've never seen Memorial Stadium that packed ever in my life. That's the type of stuff I live for."
Garner plays in front of smaller crowds for the Texans but enjoys his teammates and the competition.
"We're one big, tight-knit family," Garner said. "It gets real intense. If it's like two minutes left in the fourth quarter and we're down like a touchdown, everybody has to step it up and be one."
Garner drew interest from college recruiters while he was at East, and Black thinks he could still play on the college level.
"I think he would be a very good college player even at this stage," Black said. "He's still young, so I think he would be a very good college prospect."
Garner would enjoy playing somewhere, but he's happy whenever he's on the field.
"I'm here for the moment," he said. "I play for the love of the game."