Garcia will get sixth year

One of the best stories in the Washington football program over the past four years has been the maturation and journey of starting center Juan Garcia. He's battled legal troubles, academic issues and injuries to become a leader on and off the field. Having graduated and earned his fifth year, Garcia got some good news last week as he found out he would get an additional year as well.

Garcia grew up in a rough area in Yakima, Washington and dropped out of high school at least twice before buckling down and getting his academics in order.

Former Washington head coach Rick Neuheisel offered the Eisenhower prospect and so the journey to Montlake began.

But it was a bumpy road.

First, Garcia had to qualify. Not an easy task for someone who was raised by a single mother who worked six days a week and who had dropped out even as late as his junior year to "make money in all the wrong ways," according the Garcia.

He eventually got his diploma but was the last partial-qualifier for the Huskies ever admitted.

When he arrived on campus, Garcia had a run in with a police officer on a routine traffic stop that resulted in him suffering the wrath of then offensive coordinator Keith Gilbertson.

"He was pretty furious," Garcia told Dawgman.com a year ago. "He brought me into his office and stuff and I thought I was going to be suspended from the team. He sat down and chewed my ass out and said they were going to put structure in my life and they were going to put me under dorm arrest.

"I couldn't leave the entire University of Washington area without permission. All I could do was go to class and football activities, and that was it. Offensive Line coach (Dan) Cozzetto was new to the staff, and every Sunday they made me go to church and said I needed to get some structure in my life.

"I didn't want to rebel. I was just thankful they gave me a chance and cared and stuff and it was good for me too."

So good that Garcia got his mind straight and his grades to the point where he was ready for things to start to fall in place as far as playing time was concerned in the spring of 2004, but another setback occured -- a terribly fractured and dislocated ankle.

"I was blocking Tahj Bomar and it was a run play to my right and out of nowhere I just felt this unexpected pain and my ankle was just dangling and I was just screaming," Garcia said.

An ambulance was summoned to the field and Garcia's season obviously was over before it even got to summer.

Then, after a year of rehab and a coaching change, Garcia was lost in the first week of fall camp to a shoulder injury.

"It's really, really tough. I wake up every day and I ask myself ‘Why?'. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Everything happens for a reason. I was supposed to play for my red-shirt freshman season. My story should not be like this right now. Every day people tell me to keep my head up and that it will make me stronger. Well, I'm tired of stuff making me stronger. I'm strong enough. I've been through a lot of stuff without any results to show for it."

But little did Garcia know that those results were right around the corner, because as a senior in 2006, he started every game and played every down of the season.

He also graduated on time earning his fifth year (2007) under the partial-qualifier rules that have since been discontinued.

And now Garcia has been granted a sixth year by the NCAA due to the loss of two full seasons to injuries.

Will he make the most of it?

The smart money says not to bet against him.


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