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Pierre Garçon: Lifted By Diverse Background

Believe it or not, as a youngster, it wasn't uncommon for the reigning NFL leader in receptions to be picked dead last for neighborhood football games in his hometown in southeastern Florida.

And while Pierre Garçon was shorter and smaller than everybody else, he learned at an early age that his huge heart – not to mention his blazing fast speed – would be his eventual ticket to top-pick status for his neighborhood games.

Pierre Garcon has been voted by his peers as one of the top 100 NFL players of 2014. is celebrating his accomplishment with a photo gallery of some his greatest moments as a Redskin.

Those lessons never left Garçon, and since that time, he has displayed time and time again that he's not about to accept a role as an underdog.

"Everybody else was like a foot taller than him," Garçon's childhood friend Luke St. Hilaire recently recalled in an interview with SB Nation. "When we put him on the team, he was like the last person we chose. They said, 'Down, set, hike,' and he ran so fast behind everybody."

Morana St. Hilaire said all he had to do was say "Go," and Garçon, even at an early age, showed off his elite talents.

"Nobody could touch him," he said. "We threw him the ball, he scored a touchdown. That's how it was. Every time."

Garçon knew that he was undersized at that point of his development. But he didn't let that didn't deter him, because in his mind, "I thought I was big, fast and strong."

"Sports was just a way of letting me express how competitive I am at such a young age," Garçon told SB Nation.

Coming out of high school, Garçon said just a couple colleges were interested in his services as a receiver.

Again embracing the underdog role, Garçon began his college career at Norwich University – an NCAA Division III school in Northfield, Vt. – before transferring to D-III powerhouse Mount Union College in Ohio, where he excelled as a two-time All-American.

After a solid showing in the combine, the Indianapolis Colts took a chance on Garçon with the 205th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft. With future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne as his role models in Indy, Garçon took off, beginning with his second year, when he caught 47 passes for 765 yards and four touchdowns.

In his four years with the Colts, Garçon would catch 188 passes for 2,519 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Garçon signed with the Redskins prior to the 2012 season, and since that time, he has gotten better with age, catching 199 passes for 2,437 yards and 12 touchdowns in his 2 1/2 seasons in Washington.

In 2013, he broke Art Monk's team record by catching 113 passes – leading the league in that category – while adding 1,346 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

How's that for an underdog?

Garçon said the heart and toughness he displays on the field every week comes from his roots in Haiti.

His parents emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti before he was born, giving Garçon and his siblings a chance at "a new life."

On the NFL gridiron, Garçon joins fellow full-blooded Haitians Cliff Avril and Jason Pierre-Paul in the NFC, and laughed at the brotherhood that's been established.

"There's a lot of those guys out there…on the defensive side," he said. "Haitian dudes like to run around and make tackles, I guess."

He explained that while his countrymen are embracing American football (brought over from their family members in south Florida), "football" still means soccer on the island.

"It's catching on slowly over there, but it's hard to teach football to 17- and 18-year-olds," Garçon said. "You have to grow up with football to really learn the finer points and rules. But it's really starting to catch on there."

Morales St. Hilaire, Garçon's childhood pastor, said Haitians know they "have to fight" for everything they get.

From being picked last in neighborhood football games to becoming the Redskins' single-season record holder for receptions in a season, St. Hilaire said Garçon is a perfect example of that fight.

"As Haitian's, we came to America, most of us with nothing. We have to fight our way up," St. Hilaire told SB Nation. "Pierre's success really reminds me there is nothing that any one of our children cannot do. There's no place that none of them cannot get."


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