Stephen Garcia officially became a media member here Tuesday morning, and he did it by jumping in the deep end of the pool.
The former South Carolina quarterback, who is an SEC analyst for Saturday Down South, asked Steve Spurrier about the difference in styles between Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, the two players who succeeded him as the Gamecocks quarterback. The question itself was straightforward, but the history between Spurrier and Garcia left open the possibility of fireworks.
“I am glad the cameras weren’t on me. I was blushing like crazy. It’s intimidating being on this side, especially with the relationship we had when I was playing,” Garcia said.
It turned out there was no reason for Garcia to worry. Spurrier greeted both the question and questioner warmly, shaking hands with Garcia and embracing him with one arm afterward.
“Stephen is back to being Stephen,” Spurrier said with a wave toward Garcia’s shoulder length hair. “Good luck to you, my man.”
Garcia and Spurrier often had a tense relationship when Garcia played. Along with being the team’s third-leading passer all-time, Garcia was suspended five times and eventually dismissed from the team in 2011. All that was in the rearview mirror Tuesday, though.
“I’ve got nothing bad to say about coach Spurrier. He’s a good guy. He really is,” Garcia said. “I still talk to Jerri (Spurrier), and she still sends my kids birthday gifts.
“I am a huge Spurrier fan. They are good people.”
Garcia recently was hired by Saturday Down South, a website devoted to SEC football, to provide commentary on conference matters, and he has been a big hit here, conducting dozens of interviews with print media, radio stations and television stations from across the Southeast. Spurrier first got word Monday that he would see Garcia in Alabama this week.
“He left a voice mail on my cell phone (Monday) and said, ‘I hear you are one of those media boys now,’ ” Garcia said. “It is a little different on this side. I am excited about it.”
When Spurrier arrived at the Hyatt Regency on Tuesday morning, he was looking forward to seeing Garcia.
“As soon as I see Stephen I'm going to tell him, ‘You look like you joined Duck Dynasty instead of the media,’ ” Spurrier said. “He might make it in media. Heck, you guys made it.”
Spurrier, who once insisted Garcia cut his hair as a condition of reinstatement to the team, said Tuesday he was happy to see Garcia with long hair again.
“That's him. That's Stephen Garcia,” Spurrier said. “Maybe we should have let him play with long hair while he was there. Stephen was a wonderful guy when he was with our team and around the locker room. Sometimes, when he left the stadium and got on campus, some other places, he sort of went back to the other Stephen Garcia. But he was fine with us. He had some excellent games.”
In his first prediction as a football analyst, Garcia picked the Gamecocks to win the SEC East this season.
“And I am not just being biased,” he said. “I think Dylan (Thompson) is going to have an outstanding year. These linemen they’ve got now are out of control. Obviously, Mike Davis is a (heck) of a running back. The future is bright. They have come a long way since I first got there.”