When football instructor Stephen Garcia meets young players’ parents for the first time, he tells them to hop on Google and become familiar with his “bumps in the road” — five suspensions and his dismissal from South Carolina among them — and then explains why he’s the right guy to tutor their kid.
“They see some stuff that’s not exactly good news,” the former SEC and CFL quarterback said. “But it’s all apart of life, and that’s what I try to teach these kids: Your window is very small, and you’ve got to take advantage of every single opportunity you have. Don’t be such a hardheaded son of a gun like I was.”
SEC Country caught up with Garcia over the phone for “6 ways to beat Alabama and Nick Saban.” (Garcia is one of only 12 quarterbacks who have topped ‘Bama since its current coach dragged the program back to relevance in the fall of 2008.)
But he also discussed his new career: coaching kids in central Florida — where he’s based — and Greenville, S.C.
It’s a calling he’s turned into a legitimate business after his pro career dried up and his gig as a Saturday Down South analyst ended. One quarterbacking lesson two summers ago turned into a few, and now he’s helping any offensive skill player who asks for his assistance.
He uses his imperfections as a selling point.
“You look at all these other quarterback trainers, you see that they’re all teaching all stuff that’s ‘perfect,’ and football’s not a perfect game,” Garcia said. “You’re not gonna take a 5-step drop and not have people trying to take your head off. It’ll be chaos in football, it’ll be chaos in life, and you’ve just gotta learn how to adjust and adapt to it, otherwise you’re gonna fall below the waistline.”
On the field, Garcia was inconsistent. He threw for 37 touchdowns and 24 interceptions between his sophomore and junior seasons, then collapsed in his final year before getting booted from the team in October 2011.
His relationship with former coach Steve Spurrier was just as up-and-down.
Before the biggest game of Garcia’s career in 2010, Spurrier did something he’d never done: encouraged Garcia to loosen up and “have fun.” The result was an historic upset over No. 1 Alabama … all after Garcia was benched against Auburn the week prior.
“I got used to those (mixed messages), because it happened throughout my entire career,” Garcia said. “That’s one thing that I learned with Coach Spurrier at South Carolina. I just gotta not worry about all the outside distraction and what coach decides to do. Just play my game and let the rest of it take care of itself.”
He’s seeing some of the same issues with this year’s team, which has used both freshman Brandon McIlwain and senior Perry Orth behind center without committing to one or the other.
“I’m not a huge proponent of the two-quarterback system,” Garcia said. “I wish coaches wouldn’t do that. I’m not a head coach, so I can’t really say too much about it. It is tough when I would go in and out with (former Gamecock) Chris Smelley every single play. It sucks, because you can’t get in a rhythm. If you mess up a play, you’re kinda looking over your shoulder. ‘Am I about to get pulled out?’ It’s just hard to play to the best of your abilities.”
At present, South Carolina seems a long way off from its three consecutive 11-win seasons with Spurrier and Garcia; for the latter, those golden years serve as a reminder that the troubled quarterback’s career had plenty of positive moments, too.
When potential clients search “Stephen Garcia” on Google, they’re likely to find those “bumps in the road,” but they’re also likely to find his Alabama highlights.
“That brings your spirits back up,” he said, laughing.
Garcia can be reached on Twitter @StephenGarcia. He runs weekly football workouts in Tampa and Orlando, and conducts a monthly “training camp” in Greenville, S.C.