EASLEY — The days of wearing the Garnet and Black, along with the off-the-field controversies, are behind former University of South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia but the ex-Gamecock’s future is still unfolding before him.
He is now a franchise player in the new Major League Football (MLFB) organization kicking off this spring.
Garcia has been traveling to Easley from Tampa, Fla., on a regular basis to work out, not only for himself, but to help some upstate kids grow their skills on and off the field.
Garcia said he is looking forward to an opportunity to proving his worth on the field and live down the reputation he developed off of it during his days in Columbia.
Garcia’s outlook is a positive one.
“The end game is obviously the NFL. After everything that happened while I was at USC I didn’t get drafted or picked up and I am working toward repairing all of that,” Garcia said. “At times I was uncoachable and made mistakes, butted heads with Coach (Steve) Spurrier, and I’ve learned from it all. I’m in the best shape of my life and looking forward to getting on the field with MLFB.”
Garcia was drafted in the inaugural draft by Team Hall and is listed as a franchise player. In the 10-team league, Garcia is among five quarterbacks designated as such including Chris Bonner, Casey Pachall, Dan LeFevour and Darren Thomas.
Before being drafted this spring, Garcia signed with the Montreal Allouettes of the Canadian Football League in 2012, spending the season on the injured reserve before being released. Garcia was then reassigned to the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League through 2014. While at USC he threw for more than 7,500 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Team Hall, so named for head coach Galen Hall, will be Garcia’s home on the gridiron for the next season. Hall spent time as a coach at West Virginia University, a stint as the interim head coach at the University of Florida and a tour as offensive coordinator at Penn State University, with stretches in the professional ranks in the World League and XFL.
Nick Athan, vice president of Media Relations for the MLFB, said there are eight franchise cities, each designated by the head coach’s last name for the time being because the league is a publicly traded organization, unlike other professional sports.
Athan explained there are regulations concerning publicly traded entities that must be followed but the locations will be announced.
Athan also spoke of Garcia and the league itself. Concerning Garcia, Athan was quick to point out the quarterback’s opportunity with MLFB and what he offers the league in return.
“I got to know Stephen during our pro day workouts and I found him to be humble and very appreciative of the opportunity to play,” Athan said. “He talked about his time at USC and admits much of what occurred was his fault, but he’s put that behind him and is excited and ready to play.”
Team Hall, despite the non-release of the city, leads to speculation that would point to the franchise being located in Florida, considering Hall’s geographical location, Garcia’s hometown ties, and the league’s outlook on regional drafts, began training camp Feb. 3 for the inaugural season.
According to Garcia, the camp will be a two to three week period before kicking off the 10-game season, playoffs and championship.
Garcia was excited about what he termed “big-time talent” expected to take the field for MLFB in 2016.
When talking about the past, Garcia seems to have learned the lessons needed form his youth and time at USC, and appears to have a clear focus on what lies ahead.
“There is one thing I have learned about football and life in general. It’ a lot better when it’s fun, and football is a game and you have to have fun, enjoy it as much as possible,” Garcia said. “I’ve learned a lot about being hardheaded. Sometimes it’s a blessing, when you need to be to get where you’re going, but you also have to be coachable and learn from your mistakes, which I have been working hard to do. I’ve been working and my mechanics are sharp, I’m in great shape, and I’m going to give it hell one more year.”
Sounds like a man inspired to succeed, and Athan saw some of that in his visits with Garcia as well.
“He had that look of hunger in his eyes while he was involved in pro day. It was a much different pro day than other leagues use, we do more than just a sprint, including 7 on 7 drills and individual coaching and Stephen had that look in his eyes,” Athan said. “I was involved with the media side of the NFL for over 20 years and this league is something to promote for these kids. We (MLFB) know this is a stepping stone to the NFL for these players and we embrace that.”
For Garcia this a chance to prove something to himself and the world of football and Athan may have summed it up best concerning the opportunity for Garcia: “He’s changed and I saw that look of hunger in his eyes. He’s looking forward.”
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.