Life runs in circles. In those circles from time to time, we all fall down.
But for Jeremy Garard, that doesn’t mean you have to live that over and over again.
“You want something,” Garard said, “you have to go and get it.”
The Evangel Crusaders just wrapped up a comeback year of sorts. They went from 6-23 in 2018-19 to a 16-win campaign.
Many on the team will tell you assistant coach Garard made a difference this season. It’s his second stint at Evangel; his first was short-lived as a freshman in 2002.
“He was Gung Ho,” head coach Steve Jenkins said. “I don’t think he’s lost a bit of that energy.”
The Crusaders were coming off a National Championship, and Jeremy was destined to lead Evangel to more success. But this star moved forward toward something bigger – joining the Army, with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. It led to a career in Baghdad.
“Security for government officials, ambassadors, to (President Clinton, President Bush, and President Obama) when they traveled overseas,” Garard said.
By 2015, Jeremy was living the dream – successful and a newly wed who went on a ski vacation.
‘I broke my back and both my hips,” Garard said, “terrible complications.”
After two-weeks in a coma, Jeremy was bed ridden for six months and in a wheelchair for a year. With limited feeling and control in his legs – like the saying goes, you can’t keep a good man down.
Thanks to a lot of hard work, a positive attitude, and leg braces, Jeremy can walk again.
“Since my accident four years ago, I’ve been in a journey of recovery,” Garard said. “Every day is a blessing I can walk – I deal with the pain in the feet.”
It’s that kind of story a motivational speaker would tell. And that’s exactly what Jeremy did for the Evangel basketball team a year ago.
“A mindset of perseverance, a mindset to do whatever it takes,” Garard said.
That one time speech brings Jeremy full circle back to Evangel where he’s a volunteer on the coaching staff.
“I’m the old crusty vet who says, ‘stay off my grass,” Garard laughs.
“He definitely gets us focused,” sophomore Cade Coffman said, “mental preparation is key.”
When Jeremy first spoke to the team last year – the Crusaders were in last place.
This year, the Crusaders made the postseason for the first time in five years, and they’ll all tell you, Jeremy had a very big hand in that.
“He’s been an inspiration to our guys,” coach Jenkins said.
“It keeps me accountable,” Garard said. “I tell them, ‘this is the mindset’ – if I’m not doing that, you feel that accountability.”