Earlier today, it was announced that Stephen Garcia’s college career had come to an end and not for the reason we expected, even though we could have seen this one coming from a mile away. After watching Connor Shaw take full command of the starting quarterback role in a big win over Kentucky, we expected to see Garcia spend most of the remainder of the season watching from the sidelines. Instead, Garcia was removed from the South Carolina football team for violating [WHATEVER YOU CAN THINK OF THIS TIME] for the [FAIRLY SIGNIFICANT NONZERO NUMBER GOES HERE] time. Steve Spurrier both loves and hates his quarterbacks and has since he became a head coach. This is a case in which one side greatly outweighed the other and the Ol’ Ball Coach found his final breaking point.
During his senior season in 2006 – although it seems much longer ago – the top-ranked quarterback out of Jefferson High School in Tampa, FL became known and recruited throughout the nation. That same high school had recently given Florida Andre Caldwell and before that his brother Reche. The Gators wanted Garcia and so did yours truly. Having lived in Tampa for so long, I feel a connection to the players coming out of the area. Florida doesn’t always have the best of luck recruiting the city (I’m looking at you Plant) but still has had its fair share of athletes that were willing to head the 100 miles or so north. For my part, the desire level given to Garcia may have been higher because he was from the area, but he was a great high school quarterback as well.
The former Gator great and head coach would have something to say though. Trying to build something in Columbia, Spurrier needed passers. His offense flourished with the likes of Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Rex Grossman and it was critical that Spurrier find a similar arm to bring to South Carolina. That arm would be Garcia, as the young QB would choose to learn under the great one despite the Gamecocks’ less-than-stellar track record.
It all began badly for Garcia from the beginning. Being part of a Steve Spurrier quarterback carousel is tough enough; having to do so while constantly finding yourself in trouble made it near impossible. Kids go to college and find trouble from time to time. It happens to all of us on our path to adulthood. Garcia kept finding that trouble time and time again. Years after first stepping on campus at South Carolina, he still couldn’t follow the rules laid out before him. Stories of Garcia’s problems fueled many a media outburst of sorts; his play on the field only added fire.
There were high moments – an upset of then no. 1 Alabama and later an SEC East title – but there were low ones as well – Garcia had a nation-leading nine interceptions this season. With the most talent around him he would ever see in Columbia, Garcia couldn’t bring it all together for himself both on and off the field.
Today, his college career came to an end. We won’t see Stephen Garcia in a Gamecocks’ uniform again and we won’t see him in the NFL. He may pop up from time to time if he continues to pursue a football career one way or another, but all signs point to Garcia soon being out of our lives. It’s a story of potential being reached at times, more often floundering, and bad decisions ultimately getting in the way.
The story of the Spurrier quarterback doesn’t usually end like this. There are those mentioned that put together careers to remember and there are definitely those with careers to forget. Both types have their paths decided for them by their playing performance. Garcia’s may have been headed that forgetful way as well in the end, but it came to a premature close for other reasons. Spurrier now moves on with hope in Shaw and a dream of one day finding that perfect quarterback again.