Former South Carolina Gamecock, Stephen Garcia, has officially made his first stop on his road to redemption. Garcia has come to terms on a contract with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. After Garcia went undrafted in April’s NFL Draft, his professional career was hanging in the balance. Although his phone didn’t ring from the NFL, Garcia stayed positive and continued to train. After the draft concluded, Garcia gained interest from Montreal Alouettes. Garcia had a state-side audition for the club and was eventually offered an invite to participate in the teams minicamp in Canada. Garcia left minicamp without a contract and he began to seriously question whether or not football was still in the cards.
“Once I left camp and went back home I thought I was done. I thought football was over and it was time to focus on finding a job to support my family. It was a pretty difficult time because I put so much time and effort into football and felt like it wasn’t worth it. On the other hand, I do think everything happens for a reason.” Garcia said.
Garcia returned home to Tampa, Florida and immediately began training for something other than football. With his options being minimal, Garcia was preparing for a potential military career. Garcia’s maturation has come from the motivation of his young family. Knowing that he is solely responsible for his family’s well-being, he has been preparing to do whatever it takes.
“I spoke with my amphibious warfare instructor at USC and he advised me on some training methods to get started. I was all in. I was also training some high school quarterbacks in Tampa.”
Garcia didn’t expect it, but that small window had once again opened. After his agent maintained regular contact with the Montreal Alouettes, his opportunity had finally had arrived. The Alouettes once again offered Garcia an opportunity at making the team, by inviting him back to the team facilities. Garcia confided in his family and friends and decided to the give the only game he’s ever known, one final shot.
“Once I got the call I didn’t really know how to react. I was very thankful for the opportunity, but also a little skeptical because it came out of nowhere it seemed. My agent really pushed me hard to take the opportunity and give it one more shot, along with my family and friends, so I decided to give it one last go-round and give football everything I have. I am very excited to be up here with these players and coaches.” said Garcia
The Alouettes are coached by former NC State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Marc Trestman. The same Marc Trestman who once recruited Garcia out of high school. Ultimately Garcia elected to play for Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks. Garcia left South Carolina as one of the most prolific passers in school history. Trestman is an experienced coach, a coach that Garcia feels privileged to play for. Having coached at every level of football, including the NFL, Trestman proves to be the perfect mentor for Garcia.
“The coach up here (Trestman) is a genius. He’s coached every level of football there is and has succeeded in each one. He’s very easy to get along with as well.” Garcia said.
Having only been in Montreal for just over a week, Garcia is devoting all of his efforts to learning the playbook and adjusting to the unique style of the CFL.
“The playbook is very different from the one at USC (University of South Carolina.) It’s MUCH more complicated, but it’s also fun to learn a different style of offense. The rules of the game up here are what I’m trying to get used to, its a lot different with all these motions and dimensions.” Says Garcia.
Along with head coach Marc Trestman, Garcia has the opportunity to learn from a true CFL legend, Anthony Cavillo. The 40-year old quarterback is entering his 19th season in the CFL and owns the record for the all-time passing leader in all of professional football. Cavillo has compiled over 73,000 passing yards and over 400 TD’s. Cavillo has also won the Grey Cup (CFL Championship) three times and the MVP once in his career. With Cavillio conceivably being in the twilight of his career, the Alouettes are in need of the their quarterback of the future. Garcia is hoping to be that quarterback.
“He (Cavillo) is unreal. The guy is 40-years old and is in unreal shape and a true professional. He is very meticulous and wants to get better each and every day, and the players love him. He’s really been a nice guy and great teammate as well. He’s been really trying to help me learn the offense and the lingo.” Said Garcia.
Garcia will have at least this season to sit back and learn the style of the CFL and the Alouettes playbook. He has been placed on the injured list for the Alouettes, as he’s nursing an ankle injury. It’s also been confirmed that any reports of this so-called ‘peace-sign’ injury are completely fabricated. It was reported earlier this week on the AirItOutSports.com that Garcia had injured his fingers by throwing up the ‘peace-sign’ while coming off the team bus. A report that Garcia confirms to The Meat Locker is a complete lie.
“My hand is fine. I have no clue when and who started this rumor. My fingers are fine. I’m not sure how that started, but I literally have never even made a ‘peace-sign’ gesture in my life. I am on the I.R. however due to an ankle injury that I’ve suffered.” Garcia says.
Aside from his injury, Garcia is already enjoying the atmosphere of the Alouette fans and culture of Montreal. He’s embracing the passion that the people of Montreal have for football and their beloved hockey. Garcia compares the love-affair for hockey to the fans of the Gamecocks and SEC football.
“Hockey is like SEC football up here, its hard to compete with it. But there are fans at each practice and they fill the stadium up, so it is pretty awesome up here!” Says Garcia.
Garcia’s next hurdle… the language barrier. With French being the native language, Garcia has a little bit of learning to do outside of his playbook.
“I have been trying to learn a phrase once a day. It’s very similar to Spanish, so hopefully I will learn fast. We aren’t in Kansas anymore! This place is like somewhere I’ve never seen. It’s a great experience and I’m very excited to be part of such a great organization.” Garcia said.
Best of luck to Stephen Garcia as he attempts to keep his professional football dreams alive. He has a great opportunity in Montreal to learn from the CFL’s all-time leading passer, and to one day be handed those reins. Continue to check-in at The Meat Locker and Team Garcia as we will continue to bring you updates on the former Gamecock quarterback!