The North Georgia Touchdown Club welcomes Former UGA & NFL Star Garrison Hearst as guest speaker for the Player of the Week Dinner on November 18th.
Garrison Hearst was born in Lincolnton, Georgia. He attended Lincoln County High School, where he was an all-state running back who still hold several records.
Hearst went on to attended the University of Georgia, and played for the Bulldogs from 1990 to 1992. In his junior year, he established new school and Southeastern Conference (SEC) records for points scored in a season with 126, (11.5 points per game, which led the nation), total touchdowns 21, (19 rushing), and average yards per carry (6.8). Hearst was a consensus All-America selection, the Doak Walker Award recipient, ESPN’s ESPY Winner for Outstanding Collegiate Athlete and SEC Player of the year in 1992. He finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting that year.
Hearst finished his college career second on the Georgia records list in rushing yardage (3,232), all-purpose yardage (3,934), and 100-yard rushing games (16); trailing only Herschel Walker. He also finished third in career rushing touchdowns with 33.
A 1993 NFL first-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals, (3rd overall) he also played professionally for the Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos of the NFL. He ran for 1,000 yards or more in four different seasons. He was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2001.
Hearst was drafted in the 1st round by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1993 NFL Draft (3rd overall). In his second year as a pro Hearst had his first 1000 yd rushing season, rushing for 1,070 yards. The following year he signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. He played there one season, gaining 847 yards, but was then picked up by the San Francisco 49ers.
Hearst’s best years came with the 49ers. In his first year, 1997, he ran for 1,019 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the 49ers’ first 1000-yard rusher since 1992. The four touchdowns were more than he had scored in his entire pro career before 1997.
Hearst’s true coming out, however, occurred in 1998 when he ran for 1,570 yards and 7 touchdowns while averaging 5.1 yards per carry. His total rushing yards placed him third in the NFL that year behind only Terrell Davis and Jamal Anderson. Hearst set a then franchise record for rushing yards in a season, breaking the former record held by Roger Craig in 1988. His 535 receiving yards gave him a combined 2,105 yards on the season, another franchise record previously held by Craig (2,066 yards in 1985), Against the Detroit Lions late in the season, he set a then single-game franchise record of 198 rushing yards, He also had the longest running play in the NFL earlier in the season, when he ran 96 yards for a game-winning touchdown in overtime on Opening Day versus the New York Jets. The play was later featured on NFL Films as one of the best two running plays in NFL history.
Following the great season by Hearst, he rushed for 128 yards and caught 3 passes for 15 in their wildcard win over the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers next faced the Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Playoffs. On the first play from scrimmage, Hearst suffered a gruesome ankle break when his foot was caught in the Georgia Dome turf and twisted severely as he tried to spin away from Falcons’ defensive end Chuck Smith. Doctors said he might not ever play again, even with that news the 49ers kept him on their roster as an inactive player.
After over two years of rehabilitation, Hearst played football again in 2001 and became the first player in NFL history to come back to football after suffering avascular necrosis. He had an excellent season as well, rushing for 1,206 yards on a 4.8 average. The 49ers, who were 10-22 in 2 seasons without Hearst, went 12-4 that year. He won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Hearst remained with the 49ers for two more seasons, rushing for 972 yards and 768 yards in 2002 and 2003. In 2004 he signed with the Denver Broncos and played his final season as a “third down specialist” before being placed on IR with a broken hand.
Career highlights and awards
- AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2001)
- 2× PFWA NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1995, 2001)
- 2× Pro Bowl (1998, 2001)
- Second-Team All-Pro (1998)
- Pro Football Weekly First-Team All-NFC (1998)
- Heisman Trophy finalist (1992)
- Consensus All-American (1992)
- Citrus Bowl MVP (1993)
- Florida–Georgia Hall of Fame
San Francisco 49ers Franchise Records
- Most Rushing Yards (4th), Game – 198 Vs Detroit Lions (12/14/98)
- Most Rushing Attempts (Tied 4th), Game – 31 vs Seahawks (12/1/02)
- Most Consecutive 100-Yard Rushing Games (2nd), Season – 4 (1998)
- Most 100-Yard Rushing Games (2nd), Season – 6 (1998)
- Most Rushing Attempts (Tied 2nd), Season – 310 (1998)
- Most Rushing Yards In a Season (2nd) – 1,570 (1998)
- 5th All-Time in Rushing Yards (5,535)
- Led NFC in Rushing Average (1998)
- Led NFL in Longest Run (1998)
Hearst is married and has four children. He resides in Georgia.