Atlantic Coast High School is home to class of 2015 wide receiver David Gardner. A two way player that has the athletic ability to play big time college ball and will do so about a year from now. Gardner has had to work hard to be where he is at this point. But, he hasn't worked alone to do it.
David Gardner is actually David Gardner III. His father, David Jr. (Junior), is a proud man that has had his bumps and bruises over his life, but has also done everything he could to make sure the youngest David didn't face the same consequences.
Back in the day, Junior had a baseball scholarship offer to South Carolina State to pay for his college education. But, academic issues caused him to miss his chance to get his college education at the time. No doubt it was a heartbreaking ordeal for the elder Gardner.
Then, he became a dad. David Gardner III was born, and Junior made up his mind that his son wasn't going to have what happened to him pass on to his son. Now, David III is reaping the benefit of a father that put his son before himself.
"Basically, he is making sure that I have the opportunity to do what he couldn't do," the youngest Gardner said about his dad. "That is what I am so thankful for. He puts me before him so much, staying up late, working with these coaches and making sure I am okay."
The Gardners have been camping at colleges, doing combines, and all of the necessary things to get noticed by college coaches and scouts. This is after the school year where David III has been cracking the books hard.
It's been a lifetime of work for the youngest Gardner, and just added work for his father who just wants the best for his son and knows from his past the potholes to avoid.
"He has been coaching me all my life," the youngest said. "He's been a wonderful, awesome instrument in my life. He's coached me up and taken me to camps. He is always making sure I am on top of my game."
It has been a total work in progress for Junior. A work that won't be done until he has to pass him on to whatever college he chooses and allow the guidance of that program steer him into the next phase of his life. The youngest Gardner has started realizing the need for a lot of things his father has passed on. And the appreciation for that is huge.
"Sometimes I didn't understand why I had to do some things, but as I got older I started understanding that all the things he taught me and they are all starting to pay off," he said. "I am just thankful for having him in my life."
The Gardners are Gator fans and they would like nothing more than to get an offer from Florida for David. That hasn't happened yet, but the Florida staff has really taken a liking to the young man and he made two quick trips to Gainesville this week.
On Monday, after working out in the camp and performing well, head coach Will Muschamp wanted to talk to the father, while offensive coordinator Kurt Roper wanted to let David understand how much they really like him and basically tell him how close he is to an offer. It was a big moment, somewhat of a crescendo of things in their own private little recruiting world. It isn't finalized in terms of the ultimate goal, but it was a moment that allowed David to reflect again on what his father has done for him.
"Sometimes I really don't understand things," he said. "When things happen like they did on Monday, I went and talked with Coach Roper and he went to talk to Coach Muschamp. It's a big time school in the NCAA… without him I wouldn't be in this situation. Him working me out, waking me up and making me do certain things, making sure I am eating right, and doing the right things, I wouldn't be in this situation."
Dad has certainly put in his work. Covering all bases and making sure that David III knew how important all of it is, Junior enrolled in college and got his degree which has led him to a successful career… yet another lesson he taught his son with a lot of work involved.
Now, it's time to see the fruits of the labor come to fruition. David III is about to let his son embark on a big journey, one that he played a huge role in and his son knows how special it all is to his dad that he will be able to do the things he is about to do.
"He's very, very proud of me and I feel there is really nothing I can't do (because of him)," the younger said. "I know he is putting a lot of work in me and when I'm done graduating high school and college I will have that degree and diploma and will attribute that to him. He really plays a big part with that in my life."
It's a sacrifice that a lot of fathers everywhere try and deliver. Most do what they can because of the love nurtured from seeing their child grow in front of them and wanting the best for their child. And, on this day, David Gardner III said it best…
"I can't do anything but be thankful."