While former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia is waiting to see how his Alliance of American football career is going to play out, he has taken some time pass along advice to future South Carolina quarterback Ryan Hilinski.
Garcia, the third-leading passer in Gamecocks history, and Hilinski, the four-star prospect who plans to join the team in January, started a relationship when Garcia reached out to Hilinski via Twitter. The young quarterback was eager to chat, Garcia said.
“I just tweeted at him and said, ‘I’m excited for you to join the fraternity,’” Garcia said. “I think your character and your off-the-field stuff is awesome, and I’m pulling for you.”
Hilinski immediately responded and the two have traded phone numbers and text messages since. On Tuesday, Hilinski tweeted, “Nothing hypes me up more than conversations with @StephenGarcia! Time to repeat history.”
Like Hilinski, Garcia was a high-profile recruit who fans expected to sweep into town and be a star right away. Garcia is hopeful Hilinski is better prepared for that pressure than he was, which is one of the reasons he reached out, he said.
“I can’t tell you exactly what I said because there were a few cuss words involved, but basically it was, ‘Go in there with the utmost confidence and like you own the building and be ready to rock and roll,’” Garcia said. “With a few more cuss words I said, ‘Stay the hell out of Five Points.’”
Garcia won 20 games at South Carolina and threw for 7,597 yards and led the Gamecocks to their only SEC East title but was dismissed from the team in 2011.
“I told (Hilinski), ‘You’re a big fish in a small pond right now, and when you get to town it’s even a smaller fish bowl,’” Garcia said. “You have to be aware that everybody is watching you. That’s one thing I wish I had understood when I first got there. You can’t get away with the stuff regular college guys do. You have all eyes on you.”
Hilinski, 6-4, 237 pounds, threw for more than 8,000 yards as a three-year high school starter at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif.
“I think the star ratings are full of it to be quite frank with you but watching him play I think he’s definitely a guy who is legit worthy of being a five-star,” Garcia said. “Obviously he’s a big-name guy. That’s huge for South Carolina and Coach (Will) Muschamp.”
Garcia believes Gamecocks quarterbacks coach Dan Werner will be good for Hilinski’s development. Werner was the first collegiate coach to offer Garcia a scholarship, Garcia said.
“He was the quarterbacks coach at Miami and he came up to Tampa when I was a freshman, and he said, ‘You have a place at Miami if you want it,’” Garcia said. “That was pretty cool. I’ve tried to stay in touch with him since then.”
Garcia’s football career may continue next year with the AAF. He is currently on the roster of the Birmingham Iron but is hoping to join the Orlando Apollos and be reunited with Apollos head coach Steve Spurrier. The AAF is an eight-team professional league that will play a 10-game schedule starting in February.
“I’m trying to figure out what is happening. I don’t know,” he said. “I’m preparing for it. I was telling Coach Spurrier I am going to stay ready regardless. I feel as good as I ever have. As far as physical shape, I feel freaking awesome. My arm is as strong as it’s ever been.”