From unheralded two-star recruit with only a single BCS scholarship offer (from Stanford) to team captain and All-Pac-12 performer, defensive end Ben Gardner's rise on The Farm mirrored that of the Cardinal program. But on Tuesday, Stanford coach David Shaw revealed that Gardner had suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Stanford's victory over Oregon State.
"Ben Gardner will miss the remainder of the season with a pectoral injury," David Shaw said. "Tough on Ben, as you know he's been playing through pain for about a month. This is an unrelated injury. Just bad body position at the wrong time and forces going opposite ways. It was just a bad thing. Ben was voted a team team captain and has been one of the reasons why we we've been where we are defensively. As a coach you're not supposed to have favorites but I've told Ben and I've told the team, Ben's always been one of my favorites. He's a guy who came in as a two-star guy that has done nothing but work his tail off to get to where is. From two stars to a guy that NFL teams are talking about. He'll have a chance at the next level to get into camp and try to make a team."
I love my teammates, my coaches, my university, and my fans. I'm choked up by all of the support. But we still got a job to do #beattheducks- Ben Gardner (@BennyG49) October 29, 2013
Below is an open letter Gardner released through Stanford's media relations department.
To the Stanford Family:
As my Stanford Football career has come to an abrupt and unexpected close, millions of thoughts are flying through my head. While this is not the way I had imagined my college playing days ending, all I can do is look up and thank God for one heck of a ride. During my five years at Stanford, I was fortunate enough to start 34 games, compete in three BCS Bowl Games, and win a Pac-12 Championship. Along the way, I was able to play with countless NFL stars, learn from dozens of great coaches, and work with a group of men who I consider to be my family on a daily basis. For these reasons, I consider myself one of the luckiest 22-year-old men on the planet. Although this injury will undoubtedly make my transition to professional football more challenging, I have never been one to back down from a challenge, and I like my chances. People have doubted me for my entire career and they will continue to do so, but I trust that my experiences at Stanford have put me in a position where I cannot fail. In the meantime, I will fulfill my duties as a team captain, and I'll be right there alongside my boys when we finish our journey towards the Pac-12 Championship. What we do here at Stanford is special, and I can't wait to soak it all in over the next two months with my brothers. The #partyinthebackfield never stops, so let's beat Oregon and keep this thing rolling. Thank you all for five amazing years.
#49 Ben Gardner
Reaction to Gardner's injury poured in from across college football on twitter. Here is a sampling of some.
Very sorry to hear about the loss of Stanford's Ben Gardner. Injured pectoral will sideline him for the remainder of the season. Tough loss.- Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) October 29, 2013
Shaw said that DE Ben Gardner is done for the year with a pec injury. Horrible news for Cardinal. Makes Anderson return even more important.- ESPN Pac-12 (@ESPN_Pac12blog) October 29, 2013
Terrific player. Huge loss for #Stanford RT @ESPN_Pac12blog: Shaw said that DE Ben Gardner is done for the year with a pec injury.- Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) October 29, 2013
@BennyG49 Sending my thoughts and prayers up for you my man.- Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) October 29, 2013
Singing in the locker room to fighting at practice @BennyG49 was one of the best teammates out there #whosgotmyback #ThankyouBennyG- Sam Schwartzstein (@SamHaammer) October 29, 2013
@BennyG49 has been the soul of @StanfordFball. It's been an honor to play with you, and you will only come back stronger. #loveyaman- Conor McFadden (@CMF61) October 29, 2013
Hate that my big bro @BennyG49's Stanford career possibly ended like that. I guarantee you'll be hearing his name again.- Jordan Watkins (@Big75Fella) October 29, 2013
Wow. Really bummed 2 hear bout @BennyG49. Warrior on the field, great guy off the field. He'll be back stronger than ever & play on Sundays- Bo McNally (@BoMcNally) October 29, 2013
Everybody do me a favor and pray for one of my best friends @BennyG49
Suffered a season ending injury. Keep his spirits high. #StanfordFB- Terrence Stephens (@TerrenceSteph) October 29, 2013