To say that South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier has had a strained relationship with quarterback Stephen Garcia is an understatement. There may not be a South Carolina player who has been talked about more - both good and bad - in the last five years than Garcia. Unfortunately for Garcia it is the bad news, particularly the five suspensions, that has seemed to outweigh the good in some people's eyes. That no doubt bothers Spurrier, who has constantly gone to bat for Garcia to keep him on the team.
The latest incident in April where Garcia was asked to leave a seminar did not seem too big of a deal to the quarterback. However, due mostly to the fact that Garcia had just recently been reinstated to the team following an incident during the week of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Garcia was suspended the remainder of the spring.
"It's a maturity thing - back at that seminar it got a little crazy at the end and the guy asked me to leave so I left," Garcia said Sunday at Carolina's annual Media Day at Williams Brice Stadium. "I ended up getting hold of the guy the next day and apologized for it. I didn't think it was going to be this kind of a deal, but it happened."
After the suspension Spurrier met with Garcia and gave him the same offer he gave him in 2008 after his second suspension - the opportunity to move on.
"The same thing happened in ‘08 when I got in trouble for the second time," Garcia said. "He asked me if I wanted to transfer, but I told him then and I told him again (in the spring) that ‘Coach, I committed to play here and I'm going to finish out my career here.' Thankfully Mr. (Eric) Hyman and Coach Spurrier took me back and hopefully the fans will as well."
It's been said that often times you can't turn your life around until you hit rock bottom. Though Garcia's latest incident wasn't the worst of the incidents that has led to his five suspension, for Garcia it might have been rock bottom. Garcia even contemplated leaving the program and letting Spurrier start fresh with Connor Shaw, but Garcia's teammates would have none of that.
"I was even contemplating giving myself a second shot - it was a rough spring I had," Garcia had. "Thankfully I had Marcus (Lattimore) and Alshon (Jeffery) and the rest of the players on the team that took to the Twitter accounts and Facebook and stuff. It really put it in my head that I love these guys a lot and I'm very thankful to still be here. That made the difference knowing that the players on the team had my back like they did. It meant a lot to me."
Garcia made the decision to stick with his commitment and began the healing process, particularly repairing the broken relationship with his coach for the first time since arriving on campus in 2007.
"I've talked with Coach Spurrier a lot this offseason," Garcia said. "Our relationship has improved a lot since this whole thing transpired.
"It was pretty vital staying here (over the spring suspension) to improve my relationship with Coach Spurrier. Mrs. Spurrier has been great as well. She was right there when the whole thing went down and she helped me get through a lot. We probably have the best relationship we've had since he was recruiting me, which I think is a big step in me having successful season."
Garcia was partially reinstated this summer to participate in summer workouts with his teammates. Throughout the summer Garcia was a leader in the weight room - earning a tremendous amount of praise from strength coach Craig Fitzgerald - and organized 7-on-7 drills in the afternoons with his receivers and the secondary.
"The quarterbacks had to run with these guys (running backs and receivers) and it was pretty painful trying to keep up with them," Garcia said. "I lost a little bit of much-needed weight and I think it was a pretty good summer. Probably the best summer workout I've had since I've been here."
Though only with Garcia for half of a week, Spurrier is already noticing a change in Garcia.
"We've only been with him through these first four practices, but I can tell he's just got better commitment level," Spurrier said. "He's not goofing off as much as he used to - well he's not goofing around at all really. He's trying to really play the position - trying to make good decisions out there and he has. He's made better decisions than in the past. We were watching the tape the other day and he hit about the fourth choice on a pass play. The first three were covered up and here came the fourth one and he immediately went to him. I said ‘now that's playing quarterback. You pick out the guy that's open and you try and throw it to him.' Maybe he's learning and his fifth year is going to be his best, we hope."
"I've been watching a lot more film, drawing up some ball plays as he says, trying to know where everyone is, and trying to recognize coverages a lot quicker," Garcia said. "I've been doing all that more than I ever have been."
Very candid throughout the afternoon and a player that has rarely struggled to find words to say, when asked why Gamecock fans should take him back, Garcia really didn't know what to say.
"They just have to I guess," Garcia said after taking several seconds to think. "I'm asking them to. Hopefully they take me back one more time."
On the verge of going down as statistically the best quarterback in school history, the first thing many fans think of isn't his 6,753 yards, his 43 touchdown passes, or even the fact that he's 2-0 against arch-rival Clemson. The first thing some fans think about when Garcia's name is mentioned is his many suspensions.
"I'm not really worried about my legacy," Garcia said. "I'm more worried about the team in general. The ultimate goal is to win the SEC Championship, and if you do that you have a pretty good shot to win the National Championship as the last five years have indicated that. That's all I'm really worried about to be honest."
Come January the career of the most polarizing players in school history will be over. Garcia has rarely done things the easy way, both on and off the field. He will be a player few will forget, for what he's done on the field and off. Garcia will certainly never forget his five-year roller coaster career that will come to close in a few short months.
"I've learned a lot since I've been here," Garcia said. "Coming in I didn't know it was going to be a fishbowl. I learned the hard way which I've tended to do over the course of my life, but I guess I wouldn't have it any other way. It's made me who I am today. I feel like I've learned a lot since I've been here."
Garcia repairing relationship with Spurrier
Gamecock Anthem Top Stories
Updated Scout 300 Trend Meter For 2017The updated Scout 300 Trend Meter for the 2017 class takes a look at which schools are trending for each uncommitted member in the Scout 300.
Scout FootballTuesday at 5:40 AM
SEC Recruiting NotebookNews, notes and recruiting scoop out of the SEC...
Scout FootballMonday at 6:00 AM
New Head Coaches Mid-Season ReportThere were a lot of college football head coaching changes before this season. Let's take a look at how a few have fared so far this season.
Scout's Top 25 Recruiting ClassesScout has a new top school in the recruiting rankings. Take a look at capsules for the top 25 classes in the country, including a new number one.
UGA-USC Game Moved to SundayATHENS - Saturday’s game at South Carolina will be played Sunday afternoon.