The story of Jets wide receiver DaMarcus Ganaway is a winding and twisting road that makes him appreciate his current opportunity all the more. Ganaway, signed by the Jets to a reserve/future contract in mid-January, then waived three months later, was brought in for the team’s rookie minicamp in early May.
A graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan, the Division II product comes from a program that has never sent a player to the NFL. He didn’t play any football last season — not in the Canadian Football League or the United Football League or Arena Football —as no team took a chance on him despite his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame and stellar showing in the Great Lakes Football Conference. Instead, Ganaway was forced to sit out and watch what he thought was his shot at the NFL slip away.
“I did have a workout with the Jets last October during their bye week. I thought it went well,” Ganaway told Metro New York. “Was sort of hoping that it might lead to something last season, but it didn’t. Then I got signed to the future’s contract in January and now I’m here in minicamp. This is my shot right now and I think I’m doing well.”
Despite having never taken a snap in the NFL, Ganaway has an idea what it takes to get there and be great.
Last summer, while the league was in the midst of a nasty lockout, Ganaway took his talents from his Ft. Wayne, Ind. home where he had been working out with the famed Torrance Smalls up to Minnesota to work out with Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and a number of other NFL players, such as Malcolm Jenkins and Christian Ponder. He lifted with these players, participated in their conditioning drills and ran routes with and against some of the top players in the league.
Since he wasn’t on an NFL contract yet, he slept on the floor of his brother MarQueis Gray’s dorm. Gray was the starting quarterback at the University of Minnesota. When he wasn’t sneaking by the front desk resident assistants to get into the room at nights, Ganaway was soaking up the NFL knowledge.
“Those workouts were great, just seeing how Fitzgerald and the rest of those guys work out, how good they are and how they take care of themselves, their bodies so that they can play and pursue the same dream that I have,” Ganaway said.
“A key thing that I learned while training with Fitzgerald was that it built my confidence and let me know that I could compete with the best even after coming from a small school. [It] let me know and gave me the mindset that I belong in the league and gave me a stronger drive to be the best and not to be content with just making it — especially after the road I traveled to get here.”
When the lockout ended and teams reported to training camp in July of last year, Ganaway was left alone.
So Ganaway went down to Jacksonville, Fla. where his girlfriend and two children lived. He’d wake up at 7 a.m. then get his first workout in at 8:30 a.m., which consisted of two hours of weight lifting and conditioning. Around 10:30 a.m. his girlfriend would leave and he was left to take care of his son for what he called “daddy daycare” and pick up his daughter from school. When his girlfriend returned home at 6:30 p.., he had to get back to his grind.
He’d do more conditioning and light drills. He’d run routes on his own, sprint or run the bleachers at a local field. He rarely had company.
Now with Jets OTA’s underway, Ganaway has done enough to impress at rookie camp to take another step with the team. He’s strong and has big hands and has earned repeated praise from offensive coordinator Tony Sparano for his route running.
Routes similar to the ones he ran by himself last fall when no NFL team wanted him.
“All that work has paid off I hope and I’m really blessed by this opportunity. It has been a lot of work and time and a lot of people have helped me get here,” Ganaway said. “Hopefully I stick.”
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