Colts’ Garcon keeping Haiti close to his heart

Pierre Garcon loves playing football.

He also learned there’s more to life than just his job.

Nearly seven months after a destructive earthquake hit Haiti,

the Colts receiver remains as focused as ever. Yes, he wants to win

a Super Bowl and still hopes to make a Pro Bowl, but he also

intends to continue raising money for his parents’ home nation.

”It’s become a big part of me,” Garcon said this week at

training camp. ”It’s something I’ll have to deal with all the time

now, that’s basically it. It will be a part of me forever.”

Garcon’s journey began shortly after the quake struck in

January.

He started using Twitter and his platform in the NFL playoffs to

ask Americans for donations online and in interviews, promising he

would personally take those supplies to Haiti.

In April, armed with about $150,000, Garcon found enough time

between college classes to visit the island nation with his mother

and sister. They spent several days walking through the streets,

handing out food, water, clothing and assisting in the rebuilding

projects.

For the guy with the tough NFL veneer, it was heartbreaking to

see the damage.

”It looked like it did the day after (the earthquake),” Garcon

said. ”It was tough to see people in that environment, to live

like that, and I had a chance to help them out.”

A few weeks later and a world away, Garcon and the Colts were

getting ready to start a new season.

Yes, his breakout year was solid – 47 passes for 765 yards and

four touchdowns, including the game-winner at Miami. Then, in the

playoffs, with his mind understandably split between football and

family, he thrived.

Against Baltimore, in the divisional round, Garcon’s brilliant

punch knocked the ball out of Ed Reed’s hands and changed the game.

The next week, in the AFC title game, Garcon had a career-best 11

receptions for 151 yards and one TD against the Jets. He also

caught Peyton Manning’s only TD pass in the Super Bowl.

But Haiti was never far from his mind.

Garcon carried the nation’s flag around Lucas Oil Stadium after

beating the Jets, and walked into media day in Miami wearing a

bandanna with the Haitian flag logo. His Twitter page was

constantly updated with offers of autographed photos in exchange

for contributions to the relief fund, and during interviews, he

always made a pitch for help.

”I wanted the people to know that nobody was forgotten,” he

said. ”That was our goal, to help them and motivate them.”

The Colts supported Garcon all along the way – and still do.

”It starts at the top with Jim Irsay, and I think all of our

players do a tremendous job in that area,” coach Jim Caldwell said

after Wednesday morning’s special-teams only practice. ”Pierre has

found a certain situation dear to his heart, it’s his home country

and I think that’s important.”

Garcon has been a busy man since fans last saw him suit up in a

Colts uniform.

Besides the trip, Garcon earned his college degree in

communications and sports business from Mount Union in Ohio, a

Division III school. He spent the rest of the spring working out at

the Colts mini-camps and plotting new ways to keep his pet project

in the spotlight.

He’s also been an inspiration to his teammates.

”People saw the jump he made from his first year, and I’m using

that as an example for this year,” second-year receiver Austin

Collie said. ”This year, there needs to be a huge improvement over

last year.”

But Garcon’s affinity might go both ways.

He acknowledges that there’s probably many more Colts fans in

Haiti than there were a year ago, and he has big plans for his

scheduled return trip next offseason.

The goal: Raise $1 million and the spirits of a country that is

still in dire need of help.

”We’ll be doing a lot of things this year,” Garcon said. ”I’m

going to raffle off season tickets. I’m going to do some things in

Indiana with the organizations and foundations around the country.

There’s a good possibility you’ll see the flag again. But it has to

be a good game – not just any game.

”And I plan on playing well, so every time they ask me about, I

can keep Haiti in the limelight. I’ll do whatever I can.”