Pierre Garçon knows what it's like to catch passes from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
For two of his three seasons in Indianapolis, he accomplished that with the Colts. But when rumors spread during free agency that he might continue to "ride the coattails" of Peyton Manning, Garçon silenced them by signing with Washington.
Beginning in September, Garçon will focus on leading a football franchise back to glory. He is up for the challenge, but it pales in comparison to growing up fatherless or leading a proud nation back from ruin.
The following seven slides provide an introduction to Pierre the player and Pierre the man. They also describe where he's been, what he's dealt with and what he'd like to accomplish with the Redskins.
Garçon could have waited for Manning during his month-long tour of cities. He could have re-signed with the Colts, after providing them with 188 receptions and 16 touchdowns since 2008. But as a mature 25-year-old, who has experienced his share of anxious moments, Garçon relied on his instincts to make his own decision.
You don’t want to have your future decided by somebody else. You want to control your destiny and your future and hold your future in your hands instead of somebody else’s hands.
Garçon did not mince words in an interview with DC radio station 106.7 The Fan. Instead, he sounded like a man with no regrets.
I thought it [Washington] was the best fit for me with the coaches, the play actions and the running plays.
Garçon's decision was a sobering moment for Manning, who eventually settled on Denver. He had hoped to lure at least one of his former wideouts to a new team. But after Garçon chose Washington and free agent Reggie Wayne re-signed with Indy, Peyton was left to fend for himself.
Pierre usually does his talking on the field, but he recently showed a sense of humor, while speaking about his football past.
"I don’t think I’ve ever had a quarterback that’s faster than me," Garçon told 106.7 The Fan, in reference to Washington rookie Robert Griffin III, who has been clocked at 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Pierre, who has run in the 4.4s, also opened up the floodgates to a competition. “I would not have a problem racing anybody,” he added, in a friendly challenge to the young signal-caller.
Garçon's quotations are surely a sign of confidence, but they come from a man whose past is made up of much more than strong-armed, snail-like quarterbacks.
Garçon was born to Haitian immigrants in New York City and was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, but his father died when he was just 6. The loss could have left a huge void in Pierre's psyche, but he persevered by following in the footsteps of his hard-working mother.
According to Tom Pedulla of USA Today, Garçon described his mom as a woman who "toiled on farms during the day, helping harvest corn and other crops, before picking up additional income by working a night shift for the postal service."
Even now, Pierre reflects back on how stressful things were for him and his family.
You had to grow up fast. My mom worked two jobs, no dad, two sisters, (another) sister went to school and she worked after school and took care of me and my other sisters. That’s kind of where I got some of my strength from.
When Pierre started playing football in high school, he modeled his mother's work ethic on the field. Record numbers followed him to college at Division III Mount Union, and there was no stopping him.
A teammate of Garçon's named Cecil Shorts III said this about him:
Off the field, he's very quiet, very humble. On the field, he's a different person. He plays with attitude and swagger. I don't want to say anger, but anger, like he has something to prove.
Garçon's anger could have stemmed from not having a father around. But more than likely, it was due to his struggles in school. Large colleges shied away from him in the beginning, and his chances of transferring never occurred while at Mount Union.
But Pierre never gave up on his dream to make football his career, and he focused his sights on the highest level.
As he progressed at Mount Union, his numbers became prolific, with a record 202 receptions and 47 total touchdowns in three years. He also led his team to two national championships.
Nevertheless, chanced were slim for Pierre to be drafted, and all he could do was wait.
Then, from out of the blue, the Indianapolis Colts used the 205th overall pick to select him in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft.
The dreadful news came suddenly and unexpectedly for Pierre Garçon. On January 12, 2010, an earthquake tore through Haiti—the Caribbean homeland of his parents and the place where numerous members of Garçon's extended family reside.
The quake measured seven on the Richter Scale, and in the anxious hours and days that followed, Garçon frantically tried to contact his Haitian relatives to see if they had survived the demoralizing wreckage. His three older sisters, who were born Haiti, also made calls from the U.S.
Fortunately for the Garçons, a return call brought good news from aunts, uncles and cousins, who survived the catastrophe. But they soon learned that hundreds of thousands of other Haitians were not so lucky, as many of them perished under the weight of collapsed buildings.
The people down there really don’t deserve anything like this to happen. Nobody deserves anything like this.
Eight days later, an aftershock of 6.1 was recorded. There was no time to wait, as the world stepped up to help Haiti recover. In the meantime, Pierre prepared himself to lead America's humanitarian efforts.
Pierre Garçon wasted little time in doing his part to help Haiti. The visions of death and suffering on television were startling, but they inspired the NFL star to take action.
He immediately dedicated his efforts on and off the field to Haiti, and they brought immediate results.
In a 30-17 win over the New York Jets, Garçon set an AFC championship game receptions record with 11 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. He then draped himself in the Haitian Flag as "a symbol of pride and a reminder of need" for the ravaged country.
Garçon then used the Super Bowl platform that he and the Colts earned to encourage donations. He set up his own website and started raising money on Facebook. According to Post Pro Magazine, Garçon even asked his marketing agent to "tweak the page, so buyers could make tax-deductible donations and receive a signed photo or football."
He then traveled to Haiti to boost morale and personally contribute to the recovery efforts.
We raised about $125,000 with a lot of support from Indianapolis, Ohio, Florida and all over the USA really. A lot of people came out and showed their support I really appreciate that. And coming on this trip, we are really trying to give back to the people who need it the most.
This coming January will mark three years since Pierre Garçon experienced a jolting combination of joy and sorrow. He has also learned that Super Bowl appearances are insignificant when compared to life-shattering disasters. But if he ever struggles with his emotions, he should take solace from the good deeds he has performed.
"After all the devastation we had in Haiti, he did a great thing for us. He gave money to build this church and school," said recovery volunteer Isaac Fils, who was interviewed by the news operation that accompanied Garçon on his trip to Haiti.
Meanwhile, Garçon sounds like a person whose job has just begun.
Everybody is in need. It's not just the earthquake. It's hunger in the country. It's poverty. There are a lot of people that need people to help motivate them and inspire them and that's what I'm trying to do.
Those are generous words from a humble man, who will soon be embraced by a new set of fans.
Haiti loves and appreciates Pierre Garçon. Washington is lucky to have him.