Posted by: marcmwm | December 30, 2008

SC QB’s crazy life

TAMPA, Fla. — At this point in his career, Stephen Garcia leads the nation in drama.


Since enrolling at South Carolina in January 2007, the red-shirt freshman quarterback has been arrested for drunkenness and failure to stop for a police officer. He also was arrested for malicious injury to personal property. A strange story, this one. He basically was arrested for keying a professor’s car.


After the 20-year-old Garcia was cited for underage drinking and admitted to discharging a fire extinguisher during a five-hour span at a South Carolina dormitory on March 22, he was kicked out of campus housing and prohibited from attending summer school at USC.


According to The State, Garcia was required to submit to weekly drug and alcohol tests, undergo counseling and find full-time employment. He spent the summer working near his family’s home in Lutz, a Tampa suburb.


This was all before he took a single snap for the Gamecocks.


Saturday, he conducted interviews on the Jefferson High School field, the very place where he wowed fans and earned all kinds of scholarship offers. Even the Iowa Hawkeyes showed interest.


“He’s a young player, but very, very talented,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “I was thinking the other day, the last time we played against a young quarterback in a bowl game, it was JaMarcus Russell. He lit it up against us (when the current Oakland Raider was with Louisiana State in the 2005 Capital One Bowl).


“We were kind of distantly involved, recruiting-wise. He didn’t have much interest in us.”


Saturday, Garcia got to dress at his old locker. On New Year’s Day, he’ll play at Raymond James Stadium, where he was named MVP in a high school all-star game.


“It’s the perfect picture,” the 6-foot-2, 221-pounder said. “Now, all we have to do is go out and win.”


Garcia played in seven games and started two. He completed 56 of 104 (53.8 percent) for 753 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. He also averaged 2.7 yards on 65 rushes.


After sitting through Carolina’s season finale, a 31-14 loss to Clemson, Coach Steve Spurrier named Garcia the starter, over sophomore Chris Smelley, who has 15 interceptions and 13 TD passes this season.


“He’s showing flashes that he’s starting to understand what we’re trying to do throwing the ball,” Spurrier said. “Whether or not he can do that in the heat of battle, we’ll find out on the 1st.”


Garcia was suspended from football-related activities until Aug. 15, two weeks after the Gamecocks reported for preseason drills and 13 days before their season opener against N.C. State.


After being suspended from spring practice for a second consecutive season, Garcia moved into a condominium near the Gamecocks’ practice field, where he lived with his mother, Debbie, while finishing the spring semester. Garcia also chopped off his trademark rock-star long hair.


Must be a talent. That’s a headache of a rap sheet for a coach to deal with.


“I’m hoping he’s coming around,” Spurrier said. “He wasn’t all that ready to play this year. He played a little here and there. Played well at times and not so well at other times, but it is a learning process. He’s just a freshman. I don’t know how many SEC teams are playing freshman quarterbacks, but that’s where we are right now.


“I really believe Stephen has got a chance to be an outstanding QB, in time.”


Does off-the-field maturity come into play here?


“It’s hard to brag on guys if they do what they’re supposed to do, so let’s just put it this way, he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing right now,” Spurrier said, walking away, then stopping and adding, “but it shouldn’t be that difficult.”


Spurrier seems to have made his point.


Garcia’s start against Iowa is as much about the future and clean slates as about anything. It’s hard to call it a redemption for Garcia; he really hasn’t started his career.


“I don’t want to say it’s a redemption game,” Garcia said. “But it’s definitely a game where I can show the team what I can do and definitely prepare for next year.”


Maybe it’s fatherhood. Maybe that has finally forced Garcia to get his gear together.


The 20-year-old is a dad. Fourteen months ago, he and girlfriend Amanda Roseboom had a son, Memphys, named after a penguin character in the movie “Happy Feet.”


“We were watching that movie and we kind of looked at each other and thought that was a pretty cool name,” Garcia said. “She claims it’s not from that, but that’s where we heard it, so


This is one of those girlfriend-and-family-back-home deals. He goes to school in Columbia, S.C. His girlfriend and son live here. It’s 500 miles.


“It’s definitely tough, not being able to see them every day,” he said. “Amanda’s doing, excuse me, a hell of a job. It’s pretty tough just being her and raising a kid. It’s tough being away from them.”


Listening to Garcia talk about his son, it’s unbelievable that he’s the same guy who got kicked out of the dorms in March.


“He’s a great little kid,” Garcia said. “He’s all over the place right now. It’s really fun right now.”


The added responsibility has helped him come around off the field, he said.


“I talk to her every day and try to hear his voice,” Garcia said. “It’s fun. I’m having a blast doing it.”

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