Stephen Garcia stumbled into what could be his final chance to make a living out of playing football.
The former South Carolina quarterback was visiting Jacksonville, Fla., to meet with a coach who would be taking over tutelage of one of Garcia’s young quarterback students.
“This other QB coach was asking if I still wanted to play and I said, ‘(Heck) yeah,’ ” Garcia said. “Then he told me about the league.”
That league was Major League Football (MLFB), which held the first round (or Franchise Player round) of its draft on Wednesday. Garcia was selected No. 6 overall by the Florida Fusion, who are based in Orlando, Fla.
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Garcia is South Carolina’s third-leading passer in history with 7,597 career yards. He threw for 3,059 yards and led the team to a victory over then-No. 1 Alabama and the SEC East title in 2010 but was dismissed from the team midway through the following season.
He had short stints in the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League and has been training youth quarterbacks in Tampa since leaving football. After learning about MLFB, Garcia attended a tryout camp in Sarasota, Fla., and impressed scouts enough to be selected in the league’s “Franchise Player” round, along with Darron Thomas (Oregon), Casey Pachall (TCU), Joe Adams (Arkansas), Dan Lefevour (Central Michigan), Chris Bonner (CSU-Pueblo), Emmanuel Stephens (Blinn JUCO) and Taylor Belsterling (Huntingdon College).
“I would say I’m in much better shape (than in college) to be completely honest with you,” Garcia said. “I think what has really helped me is I have been training kids for the last two years. I am throwing the ball better than I ever have in my entire life.”
The Florida team will be coached by former University of Florida head coach Galen Hall.
MLFB also will have teams in Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Oregon and Ohio, Garcia said. The league has confirmed it will have eight teams but has not announced their location.
Former Gamecocks cornerback Victor Hampton was selected in the fourth round of the draft Thursday. He was picked by Team Hall (the teams are being identified by the head coach’s name until the league announces its host cities).
MLFB is selling itself to players as a feeder system for the NFL. Unlike the AFL or CFL, it will operate under virtually the same rules structure as the NFL. The only significant rule differences will be that a field goal of 50 or more yards will count for four points rather than three and that the ground can cause a fumble, Garcia said.
“They want it to be a developmental league,” Garcia said. “It’s not competing with the NFL. It’s a spring league. They are really hoping to get some guys into the NFL. From the names of players I have heard there are some big-name guys out there.”
The MLFB season will begin in March and end in July. Each team will play a 10-game regular season, which will be followed by a postseason. The league has signed a television contract with the American Sports Network.
“It might work out and it might not, but however it goes, I am excited about it, man,” Garcia said. “I am just excited.”