Before there was Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Pierre Garcon, this small Methodist university between Canton and Youngstown had one player drafted by an NFL team: Vince Marotta, chosen in the 26th round in 1948 by the New York Giants. His pro career, however, would be eclipsed by the first automatic drip coffeemaker he later invented.
While the Purple Raiders' NFL rep went from a drip to a guy who hasn't dropped much of late, many at Mount Union would rather talk about what Garcon has done for his ancestral homeland than his record-setting 11 catches and 151 yards in Sunday's AFC title game.
"Pierre is a from-the-heart story here," says Kehres, who has led the Mount Union to 10 Division III football titles in his 24 seasons as head coach. "OK, he made the Colts and he's gotten to play. Then there's the whole push for Haiti. He didn't get a publicist to organize a campaign."
Kehres says he knew his former star receiver was torn up over the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated Haiti when he saw Garcon interviewed a couple days after the temblor.
"Pierre wasn't smiling," says Kehres, who reached to his computer's mouse and minimized a couple windows to reveal a beaming Garcon as his background photo. "He's got a great smile. He was shaken, concerned and disturbed. You could see it."
A day after the quake, former teammate Jay Carpenter spoke with Garcon by phone.
The project, Hugs for Haiti, raised more than $9,000 last weekend as 220 Mount Union students -- about 10 percent of the student population -- fanned out to collect money in front of area businesses. As of Thursday, Hugs for Haiti has brought in $11,185.
"Does that tell you something about Garcon?" says Kehres, who has been named AFCA Coach of the Year nine times and has a 289-22-3 (.925) overall record. "It might be easy for somebody to resent the success he's had -- 'Darn it, why didn't I get a chance at that? I was a good player, too.' This was a genuine response by our students."
Garcon has also done his part to raise Mount Union's profile. While the Purple Raiders are arguably the most successful college program over the last two decades, their national exposure was typically limited to one game: the national championship broadcast by ESPN.
Garcon saw one of those games and decided he wanted to transfer from Norwich University, an unaffiliated military school also in Division III -- an NCAA division that forbids athletic scholarships -- after the 2004 season.
"We don't get a lot of Pierre Garcons athletically who come through the door," Mount Union president Richard F. Giese says. "After coming on campus, a lot of people thought we had something special, but I don't think anybody really knew what he had until we all saw him play."
Since Kehres says cuts are rare at any of the 21 sports he oversees as the school's athletic director, Garcon had nothing to lose by transferring.
Garcon says since he was the third receiver/tight end at John I. Leonard High (Greenacres, Fla.) and his academics weren't the greatest, he didn't get any takers from Division I schools.
"We ran the ball a lot in high school, so they didn't get to see much of me catching the ball," Garcon says.
But, even though he was at a Division III school, NFL scouts didn't miss out. Kehres said the scouting departments of several NFL teams made inquiries about Garcon, and some even came to Mount Union to run him through some drills before the 2008 draft.
Garcon caught 226 passes for 3363 yards with 47 touchdowns in three years at Mt. Union. He was taken in the sixth round of the NFL draft, not always a spot that comes with a roster slot. He appeared in 18 games in 2008, catching four passes. He had 47 catches for 765 yards during this regular season, becoming a viable option for Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
Cecil Shorts, who replaced Garcon as the Purple Raiders' top receiver, says he thinks Garcon's success could help others who may have been overlooked coming out of high school.
"He probably paved the way for a few people," Shorts says. "Maybe more Division III players will get a look now."
You haven't had to look hard to find Garcon around Mt. Union the past couple of springs. He's continued toward his communications degree and is scheduled to return after the Super Bowl to complete his bachelor's degree.
"That says a lot about his family and his mother," Kehres says. "His sisters are college graduates. There are expectations his mother has for him. It doesn't surprise me. I saw that he was conscientious about attending class. He didn't need a lot of reminders to study."
And thanks to Garcon, Mount Union's NFL glory isn't embodied by only an appliance.
- FanHouse's Nancy Gay contributed to this report.