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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ex-Ragin’ Bulls star Garner a top Comeback Player of the Year candidate

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Ex-Ragin’ Bulls star Garner a top Comeback Player of the Year candidate

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Jarett Garner, who starred at Hickory Ridge High School, is one of the Duke University football team's top receivers this season.

DURHAM – Former Hickory Ridge High School standout Jarett Garner had to recover from a serious injury to get back on the football field this season.

Others besides his Hickory Ridge and Duke University families have noticed just what it took.

Garner, now a redshirt sophomore wide receiver for the Blue Devils, was named to the watch list for the 2020 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.

In its third year of existence, the award is given to three honorees each season after overcoming injury or illness and coming back to college football. A panel of writers and sports information directors from the College Sports Information Directors of America, The Associated Press and Touchdown Illustrated selected the watch list. This season's watch list includes 53 players from 44 schools.

After being on the field for just 11 spans through three games in 2019, Garner suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. After rehabbing from the knee injury through the COVID-19 pandemic, Garner returned this season poised to make an impact for the Blue Devils.

"He had a great summer," Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said in a school press release. "It was interesting. We would get video of his work because he was in physical therapy all throughout the time he was gone. We were able to keep him in physical therapy and saw the work that he was putting in. You could see that it was coming. Early in camp, he was still tender and cautious. That's a bit of an ongoing process. But he is a big guy that has absolutely outstanding speed. It's great to see that coming."

This season, the Harrisburg native has appeared in seven games and totals 11 receptions for 238 yards. Garner recorded the first reception of his career at Virginia on Sept. 26. In Duke's next game against Virginia Tech, Garner totaled three catches for 84 yards. He followed that performance with 73 yards on three grabs at Syracuse on Oct. 10, including a 52-yard touchdown strike.

The 6-foot-3 Garner has been Duke's deep threat this season, averaging 21.64 yards per catch. He currently leads the team with five receptions of 25-plus yards this season.

The three overall winners of the award will be announced at the 2020-21 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl held on Jan. 2. The winners will also be recognized on the field at the game.

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