"There is no practice round, so I try to live life to the fullest." ~Stephen Garcia
Stephen Garcia was a highly touted recruit out of high school and played his college ball as quarterback of the South Carolina Gamecocks from 2007-2011. Poor decisions ultimately derailed what should have been a more high profile college career as Garcia was suspended multiple times and ultimately dismissed five games into his senior season. In his Y1on1, Garcia talks about his love for the game, the ups and downs of his college career and what youth athletes today should do to not make the same mistakes on their journey. Here is Stephen Garcia’s very open and honest Y1on1:
You played big time football in high school and at the University of South Carolina. What have sports taught you most along the way, from youth football on up?
Sports and life are very similar, especially the game of football. You get sacked, you throw a pick, you get knocked down, etc. You must be able to handle adversity, get back up on your feet and complete the mission. That is what I learned the most in my sports career. I am a very hard-headed, stubborn individual. It has definitely hurt me, but it has also helped me in a major way. I refuse to get knocked down and stay down. I refuse to give up and will always be that guy to continue pushing forward. That is how I live my life and I would say that playing sports at a very young age (not just football as I played soccer, basketball, tennis, and baseball) helped me become who I am.
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What mentors impacted your journey in sports?
I do. My grandfather being one, and believe it or not, Achilles (yes, the ancient Greek “mythological” warrior) and Alexander the Great. My Grandfather was tough as nails! He was born in Cuba and came over to America. He was a pilot in the Air Force. He actually is the one that told my parents that I needed to play quarterback after watching me throw the ball around with my older brothers. You could say my 2 older brothers were mentors too. They both played football at Harvard. As far as the Achilles and Alexander reference, I was and still am, very intrigued in ancient Greek mythology. They were the greatest warriors the world had ever known and never knew the word “quit”. They were both very good leaders and people followed them because of their ability to lead by example, not just spoken word. I think that is something I really love about those types of people. Anybody can tell you what to do and act courageous, but when you actually do it and show people that you’re willing and able to lead, that’s what separates the greats from the normal.
What are some of your greatest moments in your sports career?
I would say one of my absolute favorites is when we played Clemson in 2010 at their place. We had just beaten Florida in the Swamp to win the SEC East and we were rocking on all cylinders. After the game, everyone’s family got to come on the field and my favorite moment was being able to hold my son on the field and share the moment with him. South Carolina had never won the SEC East, and hadn’t beaten Clemson 2 years in a row in a long time, so it was just a very exciting time for not only me, but my teammates and the fans of South Carolina. Beating #1 ranked Alabama that same year in 2010 was pretty fun too!
Specializing in sports is such a hot topic. Would you advise youth athletes to play multiple sports or focus on only one?
This to me is a no brainer. I absolutely 100% suggest that kids play multiple sports. They can pick which ones they like the most and they get to use different muscles playing multiple sports to help in their development. It’s not only the physical side of it, but the mental as well. It really challenges the brain to learn all the different rules of multiple sports. Kids also get to meet different people and different cultures through playing multiple sports. As the world keeps getting smaller, the more you know about different people’s cultures, the better. Sports is such a great asset to the human species because you bond friendships for a common goal: to play well and win. If you specialize in just one sport, I feel like you are just selling yourself short. I am mainly talking about youth sports, not so much at the high school and collegiate level, because there’s simply just not enough time. But during your developmental years, I suggest to everyone I ever talk to that they should get their kids in as many sports as they possible can.
You had some difficult times with the Gamecocks that led to being suspended. What advice do you have for youth athletes and what pitfalls should they look out for?
That I did. I advise all the kids I train, no matter what age, that they have multiple eyes watching them, even if they don’t realize it. I didn’t realize that I couldn’t be just a normal college student AND the quarterback for the football team. That’s what I really can’t stand about some of these so called “quarterback gurus”. They make the position of quarterback look like it’s rainbows and easy. It’s not. When I train these kids, I teach chaos. Chaos happens often on and off the field. You have to be able to adapt and continue the mission. I failed to realize that at SC and it ultimately cost me big time.
Is there anything you would have changed or done differently in your sports career from the youth to college level?
Oh yeah. I would have listened more. As I said earlier, I was and still am stubborn and hard headed. This helped me in life but also hurt me. I didn’t respond well to Coach Spurrier’s coaching techniques and would just completely shut him out, which obviously was a dumb decision. I wish I would have just listened and taken his coaching. I have very thick skin from his coaching and I honestly believe I’m better for it. But back then, I was very resentful and thought he was just picking on me just to be a “you know what”. It was always small things, like “cut your hair. Shave your beard. Don’t wear sandals to class. Don’t wear your hat backwards. Hold the football in this position. Etc.” So my advice to all these kids is to take coaching and understand that most of these coaches have your best interest at heart.
What was your attitude like as a youth athlete? Looking back is there something you can trace to your youth days that played a part in alcohol and conduct issues at South Carolina?
I was always a quick learner and took coaching well as a youth. I loved the competition of sports and the teammates I had. I was always looked at as the leader on the team, no matter what sport I was playing. What happened at SC was I saw all the other guys on the team partying with the regular students and thought it wasn’t a big deal and I got off on the wrong foot with Coach Spurrier right when I stepped on campus. I didn’t really do anything that anyone else wasn’t doing, but I was the face of the program and the quarterback. I couldn’t do those things. I failed to understand and realize that and it frustrates me to this day that I failed to realize it.
How fulfilling is it currently to be training youth quarterbacks all over Florida as well as running a training camp in South Carolina?
I absolutely love it! I never thought I’d be training QBs at all. It really all started right before I went up to Montreal in 2012. I was approached by a kid about training him and I said, “Hell yea!” I came back after the 2012 season and a few more asked me to train them. I didn’t really know what I was doing to be honest, but like life, trial and error is not a bad method of learning. Last summer, I was asked to come up to South Carolina to train 1 kid, Dallas Odom. I went up there for 10 days and each and every day more and more kids showed up. I go up there once a month and the QB boot camp has blown up since that first trip. One of the best parts is that I hold the camp in Greenville, which is Clemson territory. They all hated me when I first came up and since then the press and the families of the kids I train have all become fans of mine. They realized that you can’t believe everything you read when it comes to people’s character! The whole journey has been really awesome and I have met and become friends with so many people through this quarterback training profession. I really enjoy people and seeing them improve both on the field and off.
You've played alongside some great athletes during your time and been coached by some of the best. Who are the most memorable to play with or be coached by?
My favorite coaches that I’ve played for were actually at my high school: Mike Simmonds and Mike Fenton. They are guys that you would run through a brick wall for. They were the Alexander the Great type leaders that people want to follow: not because they have to because they are coaches, but because they want to follow them. That’s what makes them my favorites honestly. There are so many athletes and teammates that I have played with and against that I can’t really narrow them down. It’d probably be easier to answer with guys that I didn’t really respect or care for to be honest and I can count that list on one hand. Like I’ve said, I am a people person and just really like being around folks.
Aside from sports, what are some of your other interests?
My dad and all my uncles are really big outdoorsmen. I used to hunt and fish a lot before football became so busy for me in high school and college. I have really made up for lost time and go hunting and fishing as often as I can. I really enjoy traveling around with my family and friends a lot. I have been doing a lot of military type training and sky diving, as well. Golf is always a good time to recharge the batteries. I’ve gotten into a few different ventures as well that have been pretty cool so I’m really just enjoying life. There is no practice round, so I try to live life to the fullest.
Are you are a part of any charitable foundations or do you do any philanthropy that you'd like to share with our readers?
I have done some things with Wounded Warrior Project down in Tampa and Sarasota. We actually played a few games in WWP uniforms and the fans bought them after the game and all the proceeds when to WWP. That’s when I really got involved with them. I have a bunch of friends in just about every branch of military. I really like to get involved with charities that help our veterans and their families as they have sacrificed so much to make this entire way of life possible. I’ve been looking into finding some different things as well but need to research a little bit more about them. If any of the readers have any suggestions, please have them hit me up on Twitter and let me know!
Make sure to follow Stephen on Twitter @StephenGarcia