Three miles from where the South Carolina football team finished its Thursday afternoon football practice, Stephen Garcia stood in the outfield of the Lou Piniella softball field at Capaz Park throwing a football.
The former USC quarterback – a Tampa native who was dismissed from the team during his redshirt senior season in 2011 – has moved forward with his life, but with many of his former teammates back in town to play in the Outback Bowl against Michigan on Jan. 1, a connection still remains.
He smiled at the incongruity of his alma mater’s team working out at Jefferson High, his former high school. Garcia, who threw for 7,597 yards and 47 touchdowns, the third-best figures in USC history, has stayed in touch with many of his old backfield mates.
“I talked to Connor (Shaw) a lot throughout the year with all the stuff that happened there. We became a little closer after everything happened,” he said of the competition between them and his subsequent dismissal for a string of off-field incidents over the course of his career.
“I talk to Dylan (Thompson) all the time, Seth Strickland, a bunch of those guys. I still talk to (Marcus) Lattimore just about every week.”
Garcia isn’t sure if he’ll stop by practice this week, but he wants to touch base with some of his friends. He has already chatted on the phone with a few of them, including Andrew Clifford, another Tampa native who once roomed with Garcia.
“I’ll catch up with them during the day and say hello. I hope to see some of the coaches and strength staff and equipment guys,” he said.
In the meantime, he continues to work toward a starting spot with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He spent last season playing behind Anthony Calvillo, a 19-year veteran and the leading passer in CFL history.
“It went well. It was definitely an eye-opener going to a French-speaking province. Not playing was not what I anticipated,” he said. “But then again, you’ve got the Brett Favre of Canada over there. He just signed a two-year extension so we’ll see how everything plays out.”
Garcia, who reports back to Montreal in June for the 2013 season, is enjoying his off-season back in his hometown, where he just spent a busy Christmas holiday with his five-year-old son. He was throwing Thursday with Jack Adams, a freshman quarterback at Jesuit High and the son of a local lawyer whose office employs Garcia. The two originally headed to Jesuit to work out before discovering Michigan was practicing there.
So they made their way to Capaz Park to throw, something Garcia did 1,021 times in a South Carolina uniform.