Unlikely Hero, Garrison Hearst, Rushes for 1,200 yards, makes the Pro Bowl and wins the Len Eshmont Award

After a 21/2-year layoff from an ankle injury that developed into a rare career-threatening bone condition, Garrison Hearst returned to have what can only be referred to as an incredible season. He became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than a 1,000 yards after a two-year layoff.

During the preseason when asked what his goal was by returning, Garrison responded, “That’s what I want, I want to be the same Garrison I was before.” At times during the season he looked as good or better than he did during his record breaking 1998 season. He showed great moves; good bursts of speed, great blocking ability and his usual good hands as a pass receiver.

Steve Mariucci on Garrison’s return to the field and as the starting running back of the 49ers, “Garrison has gone over and above the call of duty to get back on the field and trying to impress. It’s an unbelievable story that he’s even out there.”

“To me, I was always coming back. I never had any doubt whether I could do it again. It was just about getting over smaller hurdles each month.” - Garrison Hearst

“I always thought he would be back. Just by knowing his personality and how tough he is and how hard he works… yeah, without a doubt. His personality tells you that.” Tom Rathman – 49ers Running Backs Coach

“I think we are all amazed that he’s been able to come back after a two-year layoff and be back in the starting role and be able to carry the ball like he has. It shows his hard work and dedication as to where he wants to be in his life. He wasn’t about to give up, and I think he used that situation in a sense that people doubted his ability to come back and he’s definitely using that as a fire to prove people wrong.” Jeff Garcia

The first game of the season was a test to see what Garrison could do and he came up big in overtime with an 11- yard run to set up the winning field goal.

In the second game Garrison suffered a concussion early in the game and did not return forcing the 49ers to use rookie runner Keavon Barlow.

The third game was a break out game for Garrison with 20 carries for 95 yards.

“I think every week it’s really getting better. I’m feeling more and more comfortable. I don’t even think about the ankle anymore.”

The 4th game Garrison rushed for 74 yards.

In the 5th game Garrison only had 12 carries, but still rushed for 78 yards and also caught 5 passes.

In game 6 Garrison rushed for 82 yards.

Game 7 was the first game in which Garrison looked as if he has fully recovered from his injury. He only had 46 yards rushing but caught 4 passes for 105 yards including an impressive 60-yard catch and run touchdown.

After rushing for 145 yards on 17 carries in week 8 Garrison was named NFC Player of the Week.

“It feels good, I owe it to my big boys up front. They are the ones who did it for me.”

In game 9 he ran for 92 yards and caught 6 passes. He set up the winning field goal with a 31-yard run.

Against Indianapolis in week 10 Garrison had 12 carries for 106 yards and touchdown runs of 28 and 43 yards.

In week 11 Garrison again topped 100 yards with 124 and another touchdown.

In game 12 he rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown.

In game 13, against Miami, Garrison went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He gained 103 yards mostly on 16 carries in the second half.

“For us to think that he was going to be this dominating, and this on top of his game after all he’s been through, with 5 surgeries, it’s just a fantastic comeback. He’s so productive. What a story he is.” Steve Mariucci

In game 14 he gained 72 yards.

Game 15 was an off day against Dallas for the entire team.

In the last game of the season Garrison rushed for 57 yards in a game in which the 49ers totally dominated.

For his performance during the season Garrison was named to the Pro Bowl and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the year.

This is the second time Garrison has earned the comeback award. Although well deserved it is an award that Garrison really did not want to win again simply because of what it represents.

Garrison’s final stats were 252 carries for 1,207 yards, 4 touchdowns and a 4.8 yards per carry average. He also had 41 catches for 347 yards and a touchdown.

For his hard work and determination throughout the season, his teammates voted him as the recipient of the Len Eshmont Award. This award is given annually to the player that is the most inspirational and courageous.

Garrison Hearst has become a fan favorite player for the 49ers but also an inspiration to all people for his ability to overcome what could have been a devastating injury.

Garrison will be a key player for the 49ers in their drive for the Super Bowl. I think that he will be the key player in the game against Green Bay.

I look forward to watching Garrison and the rest of the 49ers in the playoffs and the future.