Garcia's time to shine

If you've been around the Washington football program at all over the past four years, you know the story of senior center Juan Garcia. Parented by a single-mother, dropped out of high school twice, an eligibility issue and then the injuries. He's been through it all, but after a solid first season starting in the pivot, the young man from Yakima is showing everyone the meaning of perseverance.

"When he first got here I was injured," Garcia said recently about head coach Tyrone Willingham. "I was the guy that never played and I didn't know if I was going to play again. I went up and talked to him, telling him that I wasn't sure if the football thing was for me anymore.

"He sat me down and told me to hang on and that I would get through all of it and that it would make me a better person. I'm grateful to him, because if he wasn't here I don't know if I'd even be playing on the football team."

Garcia suffered a terribly dislocated and fractured ankle in 2004 during spring practice and then, the following season, the first day of fall camp he suffered a shoulder injury that held him out for a second straight season.

During fall camp last year, Garcia and his teammates, especially departed line mates Stanley Daniels and Clay Walker, celebrated the fact that he made it through an entire camp without getting injured.

Not only did he survive camp, he also survived an entire season, seeing every snap in the pivot in 2006.

"When you talk about and measure Juan, doing it over one year would be an injustice for what he's done because obviously the conditions that he arrived under were very difficult," Willingham said. "He's shown that, number one, he can do it as a student and that's the first thing.

"He's also battled through a lot of injuries and shown himself to be a warrior and a fighter and the first thing you want to have when you talk about leadership is the example. The example then sets the tone for when you say things that people respect what you say, so Juan has been excellent from that standpoint."

The leadership of the line is firmly in the congenial, but intense Garcia now and he's already putting his imprint on what is a talented, yet relatively inexperienced line.

"Being a senior and everyone looking up to me and what I do - on the one hand it's great but on the other hand there's the pressure," Garcia said. "You have to show a lot of leadership and that's what I'm trying to do."

One thing helping Garcia along that line is the fact that he's had the same offensive system for three years in a row, something not enjoyed by many Husky players over the past 10 years and he's also benefiting from having the same position coach for three straight years as well.

"The first few years we went through a lot of line coaches, but seeing Coach (Mike) Denbrock come back for his third year is great," Garcia said.

"It's made me a better player."

Right now, Garcia weighs a solid 310 pounds and he said that was his goal weight heading into the offseason. That added weight, along with an improved bench press (225 pounds 33 times) and the experience he gained as a starter last year are going to propel him this spring to battle a veteran defensive line.

"That's always nice to hear," Garcia said when told about senior DT Jordan Reffett's comments that the defensive line will kick the offensive line's collective behind. "That motivates me, just to make sure his talk is just words. But we compete out there and get after one another."

Garcia used to always look to "get after it" with someone and it looks like he's found that outlet in the middle of Washington's offensive line.

Bellevue Boys: Both LB E.J. Savannah and RB J.R. Hasty are making impacts the first week of spring camp. Hasty has impressed Willingham with his effort and the need for a backup tailback is why Willingham hopes it continues.

"We need a back to accompany Louis Rankin," Willingham said. "That is not giving Louis Rankin the job or anything of that nature, but it's saying that right now with Louis as our starter that we need someone to accompany him where we can get after people a lot."

Savannah is currently in a battle with junior Chris Stevens to fill the void left at the weakside linebacker spot when Scott White graduated.

"It was kind of welcome news last year to get him through a season," Willingham said. "Because even in the finale of his high school season he couldn't play because of an injury so it was good to get him through the season and now start to see if he can really grow and be that electric linebacker that we thought.

"In high school when he hit people it was electric. Balls and body parts seemed to go flying in different directions and that's a great thing to have because we've got to be a team, defensively, that will start to cause more turnovers."

Is Corey in the house?: Corey Williams is the enigmatic wide receiver that, as a freshman caught the winning touchdown in the 2003 Apple Cup and showed tons of promise early in 2004 before suffering a fractured wrist against Notre Dame on the road.

Now preparing for his senior season, does Willingham think Williams is on the right track to be a big contributor?

"I think Corey, if he were sitting here, would say consistent," Willingham said with regards to what Williams needs to be the player so many have though he could be. "There is no question he's shown some wonderful flashes of being one heck of a football player.

"I'm excited about him."

Recruits and signees: There were about ten recruits, along with their families, in the stands and Quinton Richardson could be seen talking with J.D. Williams on the far side for quite some time.

View from the sidelines: Today was not one of the designated practices that the media was allowed to watch, but tomorrows (Saturday) practice will be the first one in pads and therefore the media will be allowed to file a report. Top Stories