Jeff Garcia - Quarterback- 1994-98 - San Jose State
Garcia grateful to start a Stampeder - George Johnson - Calgary Herald - March 20, 2012
Jeff Garcia isn’t quite ready to completely close a door that opened here for him 17 years ago. He’s left it slightly ajar, just a crack, in case someone comes knocking.
“I can’t rule anything out,’’ admits the four-time NFL Pro Bowler, who Monday was named among six Calgary Stampeders’ 2012 Wall of Fame inductees. “I’m a guy who keeps his options open. Football’s what I know. It’s been the passion of my life for most of my life. It’s been a great resource providing for me and my family. There are so many wonderful memories that will live with me forever. So many fine people I’ve met along the way.
“But I am 42. I have four young children and a beautiful wife. It’s hard to get up and leave, to be away from them. And I’m not fooling myself. I know I’m at that point where I’m moving on to career No. 2.
“But if the phone were to ring . . . I’d at least have to listen to what was happening at the other end. I guess that’s the competitor in me.’’
Garcia joins a teammate from his years here, running back Kelvin Anderson, his owner, Sig Gutsche, 1970s receiver Rudy Linterman, the legendary China Clipper, Normie Kwong, and the late Gerry Shaw as the latest Stampeders Wall inductees.
“To be able to share this with the two gentlemen you mentioned, Kelvin and Sig, is extra special. Kelvin was such a great back for us, so dependable and durable. He brought a great attitude, a great demeanour to the locker-room and the field. Those feet were always moving fast. That gold tooth was always shining.
“And Sig, I remember him being right beside us during that ’98 Grey Cup run. Great guy. Great personality. Really took care of the player from the standpoint of opening up his home and businesses to us, and really creating an atmosphere that really brought us together.’’
The six men will be honoured at a dinner Sept. 13 and again the following day during halftime of the Stamps’ home date against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“I can’t believe,’’ Garcia marvels, “just how fast time has flown by. To realize that it’s been 17, 18 years ago since I got my start in professional football in Calgary, and to think that I was still with a team (the Houston Texans) just last year, is unfathomable to me.’’
“I can’t wait to get back there, to be at game and take part of the ceremonies in September.’’
Jeff Garcia did what many in this town considered impossible — he followed the whiz-bang, one-man show that was Doug Flutie. Imagine following Elvis on Sullivan or Sinatra at the Sands. But the kid from Gilroy, Calif., did it. In championship style. And in doing so, honed his skills to a level that took him to NFL stardom.
This, though, was his nurturing ground. His liftoff pad. For that, Garcia’s always been vocally grateful. The seasons he spent as a Stamp, ’94 to ’98, included four Western all-star nods, a Jeff Nicklin Trophy and, of course, a Grey Cup championship MVP performance in ’98.
After heading south, he played for the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles (twice), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders and, last year, Houston in a stop-gap role, throwing for more than 25,000 career yards.
Undrafted, unwanted, then coach/GM Wally Buono took a chance on him, and the association paid mega-dividends. For everyone involved.
“Calgary,’’ says Garcia, “was tremendous, huge, in my development as a quarterback. I owe so much to my time there. Just to be able to step on the field and be able to play at a such a high level really helped my transition to the NFL.
“Although my first year in San Francisco was tough from an adaptation standpoint, after that I felt everything moved more quickly. And that’s due to my years as a Stampeder. What that brought to me in terms of the maturation process. I look at some of the guys that came out of college the year I did, guys who got NFL chances, yet they never saw the field. And within five, six years, they were on the way out of the league, whereas I was just getting into the NFL, having had 70-plus starts under my belt.
“That made me more ready to handle the transition, whereas kids out of college are still very wet behind the years.’’
Whenever Garcia’s name is mentioned in this town, beyond the ’98 Grey Cup win over Hamilton, his record-shattering Labour Day against those nasty Eskies, tossing for a mind-boggling 546 yards and six TDs is invariably a point of conversation.
“That,’’ he says nostalgically, “was just a great day. A GREAT day. What a way to introduce myself to the fans, my first home-game start. Beautiful weather. Sold-out stadium. Such a huge rivalry. Such great teammates. To be the guy pulling the trigger . . . I never came close to matching it. Not many people have ever had a day like that.
“Even bigger, though, was going back up to Edmonton on Friday and handing it to them again, there. That was the icing on the cake. We had a great feast Monday and went up north and enjoyed dessert.’’
Yes, there’ll be a lot of great times talked over on Sept. 13 and 14.
“I am excited in what I’m doing today,’’ says Jeff Garcia. “The opportunity to manage young professional athletes who are going through what I did, to share my experiences with them, hopefully direct, lead them in a financial/legal lifestyle and create a great environment getting into the game and then after they’re finished.
“So I’m working on some things that really excite me in life outside of playing the game.
“But I can’t necessarily say I’m signing the paperwork to retire. Not yet. Because once I close the door, I know it’s not going to reopen
“And I’ll never forget that door first opened for me in Calgary.’’
Jeff Garcia, quarterback (1994-98): Surpassed the 4,000-yard mark passing in each of his three seasons as the Stampeder starter and despite his relatively brief time here ranks fourth all-time in franchise history with 16,449 yards. He’s third all-time in Stamps history in attempts (2,024), completions (1,250) and touchdown passes (111). He holds a share of the club record for touchdown passes in a game with six, a feat he accomplished in his second career start — the 1995 Labour Day Classic. Named the Most Valuable Player of the 1998 Grey Cup, he was the CFL’s all-star quarterback in 1998 and a West all-star three times.
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